Friday
Aug282015

It’s a feature: Family Safety’s Activity Report in Windows 10

Ever since Windows 10 was released to the general public, there has been a concerted effort to discredit the operating system and Microsoft. This release has been the target of those who believe that their privacy has been compromised and that Microsoft is collecting all it can on them.  While a few of the default settings should not have been set to be the default, there is nothing nefarious going on and the latest release of Windows is no more invasive than any previous release of Windows or the Mac OS for that matter. 

Now, these people have taken aim at one of the better features of WIndows for children: the Family Safety feature. 

win10famsafeSomeone discovered that a report is generated that contains things like web sites visited, applications used and how long and computer usage. The report is emailed to the parent or person who set up the family safety.

Sorry, people, this feature has been in family safety from day one. It was in Vista. It was in Windows 7 and both releases of Windows 8. Nothing new about it.

Yep, this report is integral to the feature. It does spy on the child, that is the point.  It lets the parent know what the child is doing and how long they are doing it.  I, for one, am glad it is there.  I’ve used this feature since the Vista days. Only, then, instead of emailing, it would pop up a notification in Windows that the report is ready. 

So, obviously, the people complaining about this feature have never used family safety and, likely, do not have children.

I do not see problem with this feature and have utilized it in the past and will do so again. I have two more children that I want to be safe on the Internet and whom I don’t want on the computer 24/7.  So, to those who oppose this feature, I say, go find something worthwhile to complain about, like the high price of cell service, gasoline or other such product.  Windows 10 is awesome, family safety is awesome.

Note:

Family Safety has changed with Windows 10 and will be doing a new write up on the feature at a later date.

Monday
Aug242015

Start! Me up! Windows 95 hits 20

IWindows-95n early 1995, I saw on America Online that, for $15, you could join the ‘open public beta’ program that Microsoft was starting for something called ‘Chicago’, aka the next version of Windows.  Boy, was I excited.  I eagerly handed them the money and awaited my DISKS. Yes, disks.  For another five bucks, I could get a CD ROM.  I think I did that too, I am pretty sure I did.  After two agonizing weeks, I got my disks.

I carefully backed up my Windows for Workgroups installation and files.  To TAPE.  Oh boy.  Then, following the instructions, I installed Windows 95 on my homebrew computer.  I had upgraded my memory to a full gigabyte of RAM AND had a spiffy new 500 megabyte (I think it was 500, might have been 420, not sure) hard disk and a new-ish Local Bus video card. I was ready.

The installation took several hours, but went smoothly.  That last reboot was very exciting. This Chicago thing already looked cool.  I think I had every computer magazine printed at the time, in front of me, opened to the lead articles about this Chicago thing. Since the public beta had been out for weeks or even months, the magazines had screenshots of what it looked like. It was sleek, three d like, cool iconography, and this thing called ‘START’. What the hell was that? Oh, and this other thing called ‘The Microsoft Network.’

The computer rebooted and Chicago – er, Windows 95, booted for the first time on my computer. WOW.  What was this magic?  Oh my.  It had a green desktop.  Battleship gray controls and…the START Button. I click it. Wow, my programs were listed there and some other things called shortcuts.  WFW 3.11, you are so yesterday! 

After getting to know the user interface, I immediately tried the one feature that I was dying to have:  LONG FILENAMES. Yes, the only thing that really drew me to the this new operating system were the long filenames.  I wanted ‘georges resume for 1995.doc’ instead of gresu95.doc.  I mean, really, gresu95.doc? Long filenames, to me, were the biggest improvement to Windows.  Oh, sure, there was all that stuff about new API’s, something called DirectX coming out soon, a new audio system, a new rendering engine, networking that was ‘easy’, and other cool things, but all I cared about were the long filenames.  And, they worked well.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that my Windows 3.11 applications looked like natvie Windows 95 apps and I got all giddy.  COOL! I don’t need to buy new stuff.  Well, yeah, I sort of did have to buy new stuff. Some could wait, but others could not.  None of the Windows 3.x software was long file name aware, so, I really had the same situation as before, only it looked way better now.  No problem, I bought a program that faked it for those applications and it worked well, until the database got corrupted.

My twenty bucks also got me into the Microsoft Network, aka MSN.  MSN was an America Online wannabe.  It wasn’t really. It was cool, until the beta ended and I had to pay for it. Once I got a bill, I dropped it. Wasn’t worth it and, after all, I had AOL AND Bell Atlantic dial up, so why would I need MSN?  Problem was, most people did not need or want MSN and it did not last long.

As the release date drew closer, there was a frenzy around the OS building.  The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ song became the Windows 95 theme, commercials abound and, OS2 Warp trying to make a big splash before Windows 95 hit shelves.  IBM’s last stand.  It failed.  OS/2 was relegated to the dust bin.  But, Windows 95? It was everywhere. Seeing that big START button on a billboard? That was cool. Hearing people talk about this Windows 95 thing was tremendous.

During this time, I entered a contest, by Microsoft, whereby I had to write about how Windows 95 changed my life.  I wrote it, took pictures of my computer running it and submitted it.  Weeks later, just prior to the launch, I was notified that I had placed in a tie with an undisclosed number of people. My prize was a legal, boxed copy of Windows 95 AND something called Windows 95 PLUS! pack.  I got both of them on launch day.

August 24, 1995.  Lines wrapping around buildings. Entire newspapers devoted to the operating system.  Product placement everywhere.  Microsoft held an event to officially kick off the OS.  On stage, Jay Leno emceed the event. He read off quotes from the testimonials-actually from the contestant entries-and I was quoted by him.  Supposedly, the essays were framed and lined halls at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I want to think it was. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Anyway, the hype was so great, people who did not even have a Windows computer were buying Windows 95.  That’s all you heard on the news, was this new computer program was out and would make life so much easier. While, it did make computers easier to use, I don’t know that it was killer app for life.

My favorite product placement was the Windows 95 box on Seinfeld's desk, next to his Macintosh—which could not run PC software at that time.

Windows 95 was a huge advancement for home computers. As much as the iPhone was important for smartphones, Windows 95 introduced computing people who would not otherwise have bothered.  It took computers mainstream.  It jumpstarted careers, indeed, created an entire industry. While that industry today is changing, in 1995, it was just starting and ‘Start me up’ is, indeed, what it did. 

Looking back, I was not as excited on launch day as others were. Oh, sure, I enjoyed the day, as any geek might, but the excitement of putting the disks in the computer, following prompts, installing the OS was gone because I already experienced it, months prior to that day.  There were a few things on the shipping CD that I had not seen, mainly the two music videos-The New Bohemians and the ‘Happy Days’ video. I think there were a few games and some demos. But the core OS was the same.  No matter, I was now eager for the NEXT version, Windows 96. Only, that would be nearly three years later and called Windows 98.  But, it didn’t come close to the excitement that was Windows 95.

Yep, the Start button, fancy new themes, something called ‘Internet Explorer’ (which was on the Plus! pack) and the Long FileNames. Those were killer.  Oh, sure, having Leno quote ME, a shmoe from Richmond, Virginia, well, that was OK too.

Saturday
Aug222015

Don’t want to move to 10 yet? Like Windows 8.x but want some of those cool features? Read on..

No doubt, you are aware that Windows 10 has been released and adoption is going at a NASCAR pace.  But, you’ve heard the privacy concerns surrounding the new operating system. While those concerns are unfounded, you may have reservations nonetheless.  And, you may think, Windows 8 is working well, why should upgrade and run the risk?

Well, there are lots of great reasons to upgrade, there’s really no hurry. You have a year to get the upgrade for free (after which, you will, presumably, have to purchase the upgrade.) SIDENOTE: if you do upgrade now, or a year from now, you are not going to have to continue to pay after that year, the copy is yours for the life of the machine you’ve put it on. Windows will not become a subscription service.

So, if you choose not to upgrade Windows 8, but want some of those cool Windows 10 features, don’t worry, you can get some of them and make Windows 8 work more like Windows 10.

First thing you will need to do, however, is go to Stardock. com and purchase the Start8 program and ModernMix.  They are cheap and you will be happy that you got them.

So, what are they?

ModernMix allows you to run the Windows Store applications in a window instead of full screen, a behavior that is common in Windows 10.  Your Modern apps (also known as Windows Store or Metro apps  because Microsoft would not make up their minds) will now have minimize, maximize and close buttons in addition to a title bar, just like in Windows 10.

Start8 adds back the traditional Start menu you loved in Windows 7 and below.  In addition, it lets you customize it to look like Windows 7 or incorporate tiles, like Windows 8.  Choosing the Windows 8 look will make it work more like Windows 10.

Start8 allow you to boot to the desktop, a feature included in Windows 8.1.  You can do so in the Settings for Start8.

In Windows 8.1, click the Desktop tile to enter the desktop if you are not already in the desktop. Right click the desktop and select properties. Click on Navigation then ‘Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in’. This is enabled by default if you use a non-touch device.

Windows 8.x hides many traditional desktop icons. You can restore them using the control panel. Right click on the desktop, select Personalize, Change Desktop icons, select the icons you want to show or hide and click Apply, then OK.

These are the ‘biggies’ to make Windows 8.x look and work more like Windows 10 without actually installing the new operating system.  There are other things you can do, but they, too, involve purchasing software.  Decor8 gives you many of the same customization features on the Start screen that Windows 10 has, including the ability to change the background.

Of course, the best way and cheapest for now is to just upgrade. But, until you do, you can do the above steps to get the next best experience. 

UPDATE:

So, after I posted this article, I was reminded of Classic Shell.  Classic Shell does exactly what its name implies: it restores Windows back to the way it was in Windows XP and 7.  It brings the OLD Start Menu back from XP, 2000/ME or 7.  It also makes Explorer work more like XP’s Explorer than 8 or 10.  So, this may be an excellent choice for someone who wants to really remain in past version of Windows and doesn’t want the more modern eye candy.  It does not really fit with the spirit of this post, however, it may appeal to you anyway.  It is freeware, but the author wouldn’t turn down a donation.  You can go here to check it out.

Saturday
Aug222015

Customize your Windows 10 experience

OK, you upgraded from Windows 7 or one of the Windows 8 flavors and want to personalize your machine.  In previous versions of Windows, all the way back to Windows 95, you could create themes, have slideshow backgrounds and change your color scheme.  You can still do that, but Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to make it way more complicated than it should be.  This is one thing in Windows 10 they got wrong.

This short little guide should help.

Change the background picture to a slide show

settingsPersonalizationThis is actually easy to do, just buried. So, to start, you will need to create a folder and put the pictures you want to show in the folder.  Next, open up the SETTINGS app and select PERSONALIZATION or, right click the desktop and select PERSONALIZE. Next, select BACKGROUND. In the BACKGROUND selection box, click the arrow and select SLIDESHOW. Below that, there will be another button where you can actually choose the folder that contains the photos you wish to include in the slide show. Select the folder, click the Use folder button and that’s that. Your slideshow should start. You can change the duration, shuffle the pictures, etc.

ThemessettingsTheme

One post on Microsoft’s own site says that the ability to create themes is gone, by design, from Windows 10.  This seems true, you cannot create a new, blank theme.  You can, however, SAVE changes to the CURRENT THEME, which there is ALWAYS a current theme.  So, set up your background image, system sounds and color scheme the way you want and then save the theme.  Here’s how…

settingsTheme3Setup your background image, if you want a slide show, follow the instructions above. Now, to setup your sounds, right click the desktop and select PERSONALIZE. From there, select THEMES.  There is a link to setup the system sounds, click that and it works and looks EXACTLY like it did in previous versions of Windows.  Once done, Click OK to close that window.  Repeat the process for the mouse, if you want to change that as well. Once it is all the way you want, click the first link, Theme settings. This takes you to the OLD Theme page, but there are no options on the page.  However, the very first Theme listed is the current theme and it is called ‘UNSAVED THEME’ Right click that and select which type of theme you wish to save. The first choice simply saves the settings for YOUR use. The second choice gives the ability to package the theme so you can share it.  Make your choice and give it a name. Click OK and your new theme becomes a selection along with any themes you already had.  NOTE: in place upgrades will preserve any themes you made in previous versions of Windows. New installs will have a few that come with Windows 10.

Also, note that the ‘unsaved theme’ choice is missing now. It will reappear once you make a change.

Change the Lock Screen and the Screen Saver

settingsPersonalization2You can change the image that displays when you boot the computer or lock it.  Right click the desktop, select PERSONALIZE and then LOCK SCREEN.  From here, you can change the image for the lock screen and make it a slide show, static image or a BING picture of the day.  Click Background selection button (the down arrow) and make your choice. If you select SlideShow, you do the same thing here that you did for the desktop background slideshow. Once you select the background, you have other things you can set, like the application updates you want to see (for example, calendar events, weather, etc.) Set those by clicking one of the little squares with the plus sign. You will see a list of available apps to use for notices here.  Not all apps will show since not all provide this functionality.settingsLockscreen2

You can also change the screen saver from here. Scroll down until you see Screen Saver settings. Click the link and you will see the screen saver settings that we all know and love.  Select your screen saver and click OK.

There are other things you can do to further customize your experience.  You can change the color scheme from the PERSONALIZATION page.  I have it set to use the primary color of the background image, but you can make it whatever you want.  Go on and explore the Personalization page.  You will find most of the things that were in the previous versions of Windows, just looking a little different now and, unfortunately, often buried where you would not think to look…like the screen saver settings in the LOCK SCREEN page. 

Any questions? Post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer.

Thursday
Aug062015

Windows 10 and Privacy: what you need to know

Much has been said about the privacy – or, rather, lack of – in Windows 10. Well, don’t worry about it, it is much ado about nothing.  Most of what’s been written is FUD or a poor understanding of what you can do in Windows 10. 

There are a couple of features in Windows 10 that seem to be causing the confusion: Cortana’s ‘learning’ you and WiFi Sense.

First, Cortana.

This just amazes me.  People can accept Siri on an iPad or iPhone and think nothing of it.  Same for Google Now. Yet, put Cortana on the desktop and people freak out. Doesn’t make sense: Cortana is doing the same thing that Siri and Google Now do. It sits there, learning what you browse, remembers what you search and gets to ‘know’ you.  What do you think Siri does? Heck, going to Google.com for your searches is just as intrusive. Use gmail? Well, guess what…Google reads your messages, looking for keywords to serve up more ads.  Oh, and it is looking for things that might trigger legal action too.  Just ask the guy who got nailed for pornographic pictures in his mail.

Never fear, though…you can turn off Cortana if you are still reluctant to use the feature. Goto Settings, Privacy and tap/click Speech, inking and typing.  Here, you can click/tap ‘Stop getting to know me’ and that will stop Cortana from learning and monitoring what you do.  While in the Privacy settings, you might want to turn off the following: Camera, Location, Microphone and everything in General. You will, of course, kill most of the functionality of many applications, but you will protect the little bit of privacy you may have left.

Yes, I am being sarcastic.  Turning off most of the features I mention will render things like Bing search, Google search and even maps, useless. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING is OK.  On a desktop, with no touchscreen, there is no need to let Microsoft know how you write, so you can turn off that feature in Privacy->General. Also, you should turn off that bloody ‘Advertising ID’.  Finally, click the ‘Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info’ link and change those settings accordingly. Want personalized ads? then don’t do anything, but, if you don’t want ads about panty hose showing up your Facebook timeline because your wife searched for them, then turn this off.

WiFi Sense

WiFi Sense is a feature that debuted with Windows Phone 8.1.  It does a lot, but nothing very scary.  If on, it will fill in, with bogus stuff, those nag screens in public wifi hot spots. It can ‘click’ the I agree buttons on those pages.  It maintains a list of hot spots and can map them for you.

More importantly, however, it allows you to give friends access to your home network with out giving them the password.  They MUST be using Windows devices for it to work, it will NOT work with, say, an iPhone.  And, it does not ‘give’ anyone your password. Once they leave, their device no longer ‘knows’ about your network.

Still worried?

Go through the settings application.  You will want to look through the privacy settings. Many are on by default, some are off, like Cortana. You do not have to let it even start collecting your data.  Simply reply ‘no’ when asked. You are asked the first time you search for something in Windows.

Wifi Sense can be turned off and you will still be able to use hotspots, but will have to give your friends your password.  It is YOUR decision.

Windows 10 is no more a privacy problem for you than anything else and, at least, you can control how much or how little privacy you keep.  Unlike with Google.