No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

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

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

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

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Get Your Free Windows 10 While You Can

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

windows10-ad

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft answered that with an additional statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are a few things here that bother me…

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

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

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

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

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

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Take command of your language with Ultimate Dictionary

Take command of your (supported) language with this definitive lexicon tool for Windows.

I’ve been a writer nearly all my life. I’ve been a professional writer for about 18 years. I also hold degrees in English and Writing from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX.  I’ve got the language bug, and thankfully, I get paid for what I produce.  One of the things that someone in my position simply MUST have is a good dictionary.  This is one of the reasons why Ultimate Dictionary is part of my tool box.  It’s a dictionary for your Windows PC, and its really cool.

UD-02

The ultimate dictionary is a complete set of 33 English, Spanish, French and Polish dictionaries, thesauruses and glossaries. It is easy to use and is all-inclusive. The ultimate dictionary looks up words in all of its included dictionaries at once, so you can browse a list of results all at once. Once you’ve looked up your word, you can quickly jump from one dictionary, glossary even to another translation if necessary.  You can compare definitions between dictionaries and glossaries at your leisure.

Ultimate Dictionary is a decent application, but its interface is very outdated. The app hasn’t been updated since January 2009, and while it’s a great app, its so very Windows 7.  While that isn’t necessarily, a bad thing – more and more users are moving off Windows XP – and are finally embracing Windows 7 comfortably.  However, without an update in over five years, its hard to know how long it will continue to work, if at all, with newer versions of Windows. Its too bad, because its pronunciation tools are a huge help if you’re trying to learn a new language.

download Ultimate Dictionary

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Microsoft Wants You…

To help it kill Windows XP as part of the XP Army

winaccess denied2014-02-07 marks 60 days until support for Windows XP will officially die. After that, its malware defs only until that finally craps out sometime next year. After  2014-04-08, everyone running XP will be a target for hackers everywhere.

Oh, goody.

So, what’s a techie to do?   Easy… help Microsoft prevent the PC apocalypse by getting friends and family everywhere to upgrade to a different version of Windows – preferably Windows 8.x – ASAP.

Effectively, as suggested by Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc, you need to find a PC buddy, and if they’re running XP, get them to upgrade or help them purchase a new PC.

Wait… What?!

Don’t get me wrong. I am all about helping friends and loved ones. I really am…but when most people are so poor, they can’t afford to pay attention, let alone help someone pay for a new PC.   What’s more upsetting, is that neither Microsoft nor LeBlanc are offering any kind of price breaks on either Windows 7 or Windows 8.x or on new hardware.   While no one at Microsoft actually came out and said, “give your friends and family money so they can upgrade their rig,” the point was clearly taken.   They want everyone moving to Windows 8.x ASAP.

While Windows 8 was dirt cheap for a   while after its initial release on October 2012, it jacked the price back up to $120 bucks for the consumer version and $200 bucks for the enterprise version.   Microsoft also killed Windows 7 during this time, so you have no choice but to move to Windows 8.x at this point, whether you want to or not, whether you like it or not.

Everyone – from OEM’s, to security experts to tech enthusiasts, experts and journalists as well as the consumer community – has been pushing Microsoft to offer a (permanently) affordable SKU of Windows 8.x.   If they want the world off of XP, they need to make it super easy and silly not up upgrade immediately.

If this whole thing isn’t a stick in the eye from Microsoft, I really don’t know what is. While I don’t have any PC’s that run XP, either in physical or VM form, at home or at work, I know many people still do.   Its likely the 3rd  party development community will continue to support XP for a while until all of their customers upgrade, which may or may not happen any time soon.

I think the biggest scenario I’m afraid of, is someone who paid, like, $2500 for their XP computer, who refuses to upgrade, because their determined to get their money’s worth, and they get a huge virus that empties their bank accounts and files a civil suite against the Redmond software company; or worse yet, replace the consumer with a bank (many ATM’s run on Windows XP), and have the same thing happen. That could get ugly.

What do you think? Are you still using Windows XP?   Does anyone in your family? Will you buy an upgrade to the OS, or will you buy a new computer, if you upgrade at all?   I’d love to hear what you think of this situation, as well as what might happen  61 days from now in the comments section below.

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Windows Threshold – Bringing Back Windows 7 & the Desktop

It’s clear from the “retrohancements” in Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Threshold, that Microsoft is saying, “mea culpa.”

image2993This is just a (short) update to one or two other columns that I’ve written here for Soft32 over the past few weeks and months.   It’s clear to me that Microsoft is firmly embracing its wishy-washy stance and back tracking not only on the implementation of the Metro/ ModernUI that it introduced with Windows 8 and Windows RT, but on the vision they had to change the direction of mainstream computing.

None of this is news. People have been saying this stuff for a little bit. However, it occurred to me while reading an article by Mary Joe Foley recently that Microsoft really has no one else to blame but themselves.

Windows XP was initially released in August of 2001, almost 13 years ago.   Windows XP SP3, the OS’ last major release and most current version, was released in April of 2008, nearly 6 years ago. Windows Vista, which used much the same UI, but is largely considered a flop by many industry leaders, was released in November of 2006, nearly 7 years ago. Windows 7, which uses much the same UI was released in July of 2009, over 4 years ago.

So what’s the point with the history lesson..?   Simple – Microsoft has had the same UI in place for approximately 15 years, or 50% of the modern computing history (and by modern computing history, I mean anything not mainframe/thin client based).

The world is hooked on the Windows desktop.   Microsoft’s licensing deals with most companies have allowed enterprise users to bring copies of Windows and Office to their homes for under   a $100 bucks combined.   That same software combination that would have cost nearly $750 at retail, depending on which versions of the two software titles you purchased. They further reinforced this desktop monopoly by making  many of their enterprise titles – Server editions of Windows, Exchange, SQL Server, etc., accessible for “testing” purposes via different developer and technical programs as well as other licensing programs that brought enterprise and business versions of Microsoft software to an end user’s home.

Somewhere during this 15 year dairy farm period where Microsoft didn’t do much more than milk the cash cows they had reared, someone got off the merry go round and looked around, realizing that the party was pretty much over.   At that point, they looked at the tablet and personal device trends – the CoIT and BYOD challenges that many IT managers were facing – and decided it was time to embrace that vision.   Unfortunately, this required a huge paradigm change not only for their products and their internal processes, but for their customers as well.

Going cold turkey is the (usually) best way to break a habit…unless of course, you’re talking about the way I get work done, and then maybe not so much. It’s clear that the rest of the world felt the same way, as the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been loud and arduous.   The Start Button is back. The Start Menu is confirmed to be coming back (though just how that, or any other returning feature, will be reimplemented is unknown as of this writing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no one to “blame” for the rejection of this new computing vision but themselves; and its two fold.

1.    If it ain’t broke…
If they had retired XP at a much earlier date, if Vista hadn’t been a train wreck, and if Windows 7 wasn’t viewed as the OS to save us from the disaster that Vista was or from the stale nature that was (and currently still is) Windows XP, then perhaps they wouldn’t be in the pickle that they’re in.   The world doesn’t stand still.   Moore’s Law was clearly in effect, and all of Microsoft’s billions couldn’t build blinders large enough to hide the changing computing trends
2.    A Lack of Vision and Leadership
Ballmer is a self-proclaimed sales guy. He doesn’t get computing and mobility very well, and unfortunately, those two combined to create the current computing trend that Apple, Google   and Samsung are clearly leading with their desktop and mobile operating systems.

Revelations like this just point out to the public what I’m certain the MS Board must already know – Microsoft has a long comeback road in front of it; and the organization really needs to pick the right CEO.   With both Gates and Ballmer remaining on the Board after Ballmer leaves the Microsoft CEO spot, that person’s job isn’t going to be easy. Not only do they have a public relations mess to fix – the public is not happy with the direction that Windows 8.x has been going and wants a change, the evolutionary rather than revolutionary path that Office has been taking coupled with both title’s high price tags – but the new Microsoft CEO will have to create both mission and vision strategies that fit well with the current strategic direction set in motion by Steve Ballmer (did I mention that he will still have a lot to say about the company’s direction after the new CEO is named..??).

No matter how you decide to look at this, it’s clear to me that Microsoft and its Board of Directors painted themselves into this corner. How they are going to get themselves out, is up to them.   I know that the entire world is waiting and watching. I know I am…and I’m certain I’ll have a thing or two to say about it in the coming months as developments unfold.

What about you?   What do you think of all of this?   Did Microsoft do this to themselves? Are they victims of circumstance, or did they just sort of arrive here because their product roadmap dropped them at the corner? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and let me know what you think?

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(Son of) The Operating System that Wouldn’t Die

Microsoft extends security update support for Windows XP for an additional 15 months.

securityI’m not surprised, but in a way, I kinda am. It’s like a “B” horror movie from the 1950’s. Windows XP is an operating system that Microsoft desperately wants to kill, but the darn thing just won’t stay dead.

Microsoft announced today that due to customer concerns, it will further extend security update support for Windows XP by an additional 15 months. The new, new end of support/ end of life date for Windows XP is now  2015-07-14.

Its currently estimated that even by THAT time, 10% of all PC’s in medium to large businesses will still be running Windows XP. Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for its anti-malware and security products – System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune running on Windows XP as well as for Microsoft Security Essentials.

Users will need to insure that their PC’s remain secure after the  2015-07-14  deadline. That may involve a platform change. That may involve a hardware change. It likely will involve both at this point, if PC’s that fall within this category are intended to remain on main network lines within the organization.

To further help protect these machines that will live in a perpetual Zero-Day threat status after support ends, Microsoft and analysis firm Gartner recommend that IT departments segregate their XP-based PC’s onto a private network. This additional insulation will limit external exposure and prevent XP machines from becoming infected on the wider, more accessible, corporate network.

For Microsoft, the challenge is not continuing support, but helping their channel and other partners move up to more current versions of Windows. Windows XP was never meant to last for 15 years.   Windows 7 – the likely landing spot for those still running XP at this time – will be 6 years old at that time, and likely two or more whole versions back from the current version of Windows (anticipated to be Windows 9). While IT departments do need to just get over it and spend the money required to update their infrastructures, middleware and end points, shareholders need to understand the costs involved and not freak out when their profit margins flatten out due to increased operational charges. It’s at this point that Microsoft’s newest organizational structure and focus could be of help.   If Windows 9 does end up being free, AND if it runs on legacy equipment, it may be a lot easier to afford the required upgrades.

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Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products

Microsoft Merges Windows Live Messenger with Skype and Announces that Support for Windows XP ends in 365 days

On Monday 8th April Microsoft announced that support for Windows XP will stop in exactly 365 days. This announcement came at the same time Microsoft merged Windows Live Messenger with Skype. These recent announcements are part of the new strategy Microsoft is intending to follow in order to channel customers to their latest products including Windows 8.

These updates from Microsoft are certain to affect many businesses and home users. Following we look at how Microsoft plan to funnel people towards their newer products and what you need to do to keep updated.

Windows-XP-Skype

RIP Microsoft XP

Windows XP was originally launched in October, 2001. From April 8, 2014 Microsoft will officially cut off corporate support for Windows XP SP3, as well as Microsoft Office 2003. Once support is cut, Windows XP will no longer receive any new security, hot fixes and most importantly support.

Microsoft announced that come April 2014 any customers using XP will be doing so at their “own risk,” and that failing to update would likely be costly later on down the line. It is estimated that 40 percent of all PCs still run XP, so these changes are set to affect a large amount of customers.

Cutting off support is likely to have a much bigger impact on businesses, than it is on home users. Whereas home users can simply upgrade with little hassle, upgrading for businesses is much more complicated. Microsoft warned businesses that is can regularly take 18 to 32 months to go through the entire deployment phase for new operating systems.

The announcements have put major strains on many businesses still using XP. Many are simply refusing to upgrade to Windows 7, as there is no simple upgrade path. These changes are likely to cause major upset for many a business.

If it wasn’t obvious, Microsoft is using this opportunity to persuade customers to upgrade to Windows 8 stating that it offers cutting edge technology with a stronger interface.

For smaller companies, with one or several computers, updating their operating system will be a breeze. The problems occur for larger companies and if they’ve failed to select a new operating system by now, it may already be too late to beat the XP deadline.

Windows Live Messenger Merges With Skype

In October 2011 Microsoft acquired Skype. Ever since then, they have been working to replace WLM. And on the 8th April 2013, Windows Live Messenger, known to most as MSN Messenger, was finally retired – ending 14 years of loyal service.

The last few years has seen a rapid decline in the amount of people using Windows Live Messenger, mainly due to the success of Facebook’s instant messaging service. Microsoft will now focus on increasing the success of Skype.

If you still have an account with Windows Live Messenger, you can still use those same details to log in to Skype. Once logged in you’ll find a list of all your old contacts, which can then be merged into Skype.

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Windows 8 Part 1 – Repeating Windows 7 Success

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview (or Beta) is due out on 29-Feb-12 at Mobile World Congress. While it may be strategically important to Microsoft, consumers may not thing so.

I’ve been part of nearly every Windows Technical Beta Team since Windows 95. I’m used to being one of Microsoft’s go-to external testers. I also was part of their Windows 7 Launch, as I was chosen in 2009 to host a Windows 7 Launch Party at my home. I covered the event for a local paper as well, and spun off into a print column for them called, “Technically Speaking.” At the time of its release, Windows 7 was the right operating system for Microsoft’s ailing desktop operating system business – It provided enough of a reason to compel enterprise users to move away from Windows XP, and wasn’t the consumer-worrying, performance deprived, hardware consuming mess that Windows Vista was.

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to address two big issues.

1. Repeat the Windows 7 success
2. Address the tablet trend

In this two part series, we’re going to look at both of these issues and try to make sense of it all.

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 – Repeat the Success

There are a couple basic reasons why Windows 7 was so successful, and both of them are operating system related. Interestingly enough, both reasons have nothing do to with Windows 7.

Windows 7 wasn’t Windows XP

Windows 7 owes a lot of its past and current success to Windows XP. WinXP was released over 11 years ago. It stuck around in the enterprise for so long because it was solid. Even though it still has a number security issues, it’s still a huge player in the enterprise space because of XP’s longevity and familiarity with IT support staff. Simply put, they’ve been working with it for so long, they’re familiar with the pain it causes, know where the problems are, and know how to deal with them.

However, its time has come and gone. Many companies that are still running the aged OS are in the process of phasing it out of the enterprise and are making in the process of drafting or implementing approved Windows 7 migration plans. IT support staff members feel confident that their users will be able to effectively make the transition without too many use or support issues. It’s enough like XP that users will be able to make a smooth transition, and improved enough that the support issues encountered with XP have been successfully and effectively addressed. Microsoft had also clearly made its plans for sun setting the OS widely known.

Simply put, Windows 7 was a success because the need for an XP replacement was clear. XP needed a replacement and the enterprise and consumer public was more than ready for it.

Windows 7 Clearly was NOT Windows Vista

One of the biggest reasons why Windows 7 was such a success was that it clearly was NOT Windows Vista. While Vista may have introduced a new interface, desktop theme and new technology, it unfortunately came with a lot of problems.

Microsoft moved everything. Windows XP users moving to Vista had a huge problem using the OS. Many of the features and functions that they were used to going to in location X were now located in location Z (location “Y” would have made sense, but MS seemed to randomly move things to new locations that only THEY understood the reasoning behind…).

Vista was late to market. The OS, originally code named Longhorn, was well over 7 years late being released. Worse yet, it was riddled with performance issues. Correcting them was easy and after SP1 was released, it actually wasn’t a bad OS.

Its problems were marketing in and PR-based. Windows 7 didn’t have a hard time being a success. In fact, based on Vista’s bad PR and XP’s overly long longevity, Windows 7 couldn’t have been much else other than a success. Microsoft did what it needed to do to address some interface and user experience issues, further improved the underlying performance and put some marketing money behind the release. The result was instant success.

Come back next time, and we’ll address some items in the Windows 8 Developer’s Preview and what’s supposed to be happening with the Consumer Preview to address the increasing popularity of tablets at both home and at work.

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