The State of Windows 10 – Post Microsoft’s Free Upgrade Offer

Yesterday the free upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ended. The infamous Get Windows 10 app will be removed from Windows 7 and 8.1 systems and the steady stream of reminders will fade into our collective history.

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The next phase of this process will probably be the uproar from users who will state that they never heard about the free upgrade offer. They will express their dismay about missing the upgrade opportunity and share their frustration at Microsoft for ending the unprecedented offer in the first place.

There is no doubt that this will happen because that is exactly what occurred when Microsoft ended the special $15 and $40 upgrades to Windows 8 a few years ago.

If history repeats itself, those users who were flabbergasted to find out they missed out on a free upgrade will likely stay put with their current operating system and postpone the move to Windows 10 until they buy their next desktop, laptop or tablet.

A few might even choose to invest in a retail license and pay $119 for a Windows Home upgrade or $199 for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. However, I do wonder about those who knew about the free upgrade and did not take it. I know I recommended this countless time right here – on this fine technology blog. Who says no to free money and a modern, secure operating system at the same time?

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Moving forward to next week, on August 2, 2016, the second major update to Windows 10 gets released – the Anniversary Update.

Let’s take a look at the future of Windows 10.

The first thing to know is that you can fully expect Windows 10 to continue to be supported by Microsoft under the Windows as a Service approach which means a regular flow of monthly updates to address security, performance and bugs in this latest version of the operating system.

In fact, based on a couple of cumulative updates that have been released for Windows 10 Build 14393, we already know there will be an update available right alongside of the Anniversary Update when it is first delivered to users on August 2nd.

Also be aware that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will not be an instantaneous roll out. There are over 350 million devices running Windows 10 according to Microsoft, so that means the roll out will be staggered over time.

For the impatient and advanced users among you, there is an alternative to waiting. Microsoft has confirmed that the Media Creation Tool will be available on August 2, 2016, along with the Anniversary Update release build so users will be able to use that to get an ISO, perform an in-place upgrade or create installation media for a clean install for their systems. I will write more about this feature and how to accomplish it soon.

Windows Insiders – Our Mission Continues

Once everyone is settled into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the next step that will be on the minds of Windows Insiders is the next stage of the program. That means testing development builds for Redstone 2 – the next major update for Windows 10 which is expected sometime in the Spring of 2017.

So when will that first Fast Ring build for Redstone 2 arrive?

After the initial release of Windows 10 and its first major update last November, it took three and four weeks for Microsoft to prepare and issue the first testing build of the next update. I believe that we will see that first Redstone 2 build in the month of August.

Windows 10 is the last version of Microsoft’s operating system and that means that Windows will be continually developed and built. Think of it as a upgrade constantly in motion. Very exciting. 

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Windows 10 – After July 29

When Windows 10 was released in July of 2015, it was free for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, for one year. This was a new tactic for Microsoft. Instead of having consumers pay for the software, Microsoft decided to offer it for free. This resulted in a huge spike in upgrades by consumers, with Microsoft going as far as proclaiming that over one billion users will activate Windows 10 in the coming years.

Windows 10 has been a huge success, with over 300 million active Windows devices. Microsoft feels confident that they will reach their goal of having over a billion Windows 10 users. But there is one problem.

The free upgrade promotion ends in a little over a month — July 29th to be exact. 

So what happens past July 29th? Here’s what Microsoft stated about this:

For those who decide not to upgrade for free within the first year beginning on July 29, you can purchase Windows 10 through the Microsoft Store or Microsoft retail partners.

Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current via Windows Update for the supported lifetime of the device – at no cost.  

The easiest way to get Windows 10 is to upgrade for free. You may also purchase Windows 10 if you decide not to upgrade, or if you need to purchase for other reasons like installing on a PC you built yourself. The suggested retail prices for Windows 10 in the U.S. are the same as Windows 8.1.

In other words, those who do not accept the free upgrade offer to Windows 10 and are still running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 will have to purchase a license from the Microsoft Store or from any other retailer who carries the operating system. Windows 10 Home runs for $119.99 and Windows 10 Pro runs for $199.99.

Microsoft also offers a “Windows 10 Pro Pack” which allows a consumer to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, and it runs for $99.

Once you upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it current via Windows Update for the lifetime of the device and it will not cost you a penny.

For those of you who took advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, Microsoft will not be charging you a monthly fee after July 29th, nor will you be asked to pay any money for updates. Sit back, relax, and be proud that you took advantage of the free upgrade offer while it lasted.

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The Case for Password Managers

Here is something that probably drives you crazy. Passwords. How many times do you have to reset your password? How much time do you lose trying to figure out just what your password is for a particular website? Do you panic when you hear about another security breach and have you ever feared that your personal information has been stolen?

We are live in a digital world and there is nothing we can do about that. Passwords and security are simply going to continue to become more difficult and harder for us to manage. I believe that the best way for you to safely and efficiently manage your online security is by investing your time (and sometimes a little cash) in a good password manager.

Using a password manager will address these problems that most of us face as we travel through the digital universe.

  1. Error messages galore – It’s annoying to type out a password, especially as password requirements get more complex. And many times, we type them in wrong. This is even more of a problem using the small keyboards on a smartphone or tablet. With a password manager, your password is automatically filled in for you when it detects the login screen, or you can easily tap the password for entry into a mobile app.
  1. The forgotten password lock-out – Enter that password one too many times, and boom – you’re locked out. Again. That’s the last thing you want to deal with when you’re logging in to pay your credit card on time or need to respond to an email quickly. Password managers never forget the stuff you’ve stored in them, and that stuff includes your passwords. Never get locked out again with a password manager.
  1. The reset (the aftermath of the lock-out) – Once you’ve finally admitted that you can’t remember your password, you have to go through the painful and usually time-consuming password reset process. Will the link to reset your password come through immediately? Or in a few hours? No one knows, and no one has time for that.
  1. Creating a tough as $%!t password – With the increased frequency of breaches, many sites are implementing stronger password requirements – 35 characters, 6 symbols, uppercase, lowercase – who can remember all that?! Thankfully, we have the technology of a password manager for that. Not only can it create that complicated password in one click, it remembers it without any work on your part.
  1. What’s your Wi-Fi, again? – You have friends over for game night and everyone wants to control the music from their own phone. But before they can do that, you get the age-old question, “What’s your Wi-Fi password?” And a 15-minute delay ensues as you try to track it down again. Ah! But with a password manager like LastPass, you’ll have it right where you want it. Simply store your Wi-Fi credentials in a Secure Note, and share that Note with your friends so you don’t ever have to dig up and spell out your Wi-Fi password again.
  1. Your billing address is not correct – You’re shopping online, just buying a new pair of shoes, but as soon as you enter your name, the browser populates your billing and shipping information with your office address. As much as you’d love to charge those new shoes to work, that won’t fly. With LastPass, you can create profiles for your credit cards so you don’t need to enter the information each time – LastPass just fills it in for you automatically.
  1. Post-breach password changes – The modern reality is that passwords are a hot commodity and hackers are going to keep trying to steal them. After each new breach, we as consumers run around changing this password or that one, which can be a hassle and quite time-consuming. But password managers like LastPass can help you figure out where you’ve reused the same password that was breached, and will even automatically change passwords for you making it extremely easy to be extremely secure.
  1. Not having a password when you need it – It’s happened to everyone. You’re on the go – running errands, away for the weekend – and you get an email that your electric bill is due – today! Normally that’s not a problem, but the password for your electric company account is stored in your browser or on a sticky note next to your computer, which isn’t helpful now. With a password manager you have access to your passwords wherever you are, from any device. So paying your electric bill from a rest stop on the side of the highway is no big deal.

Take a look back at this list. How many of these frustrations have you dealt with just in the last month? Passwords aren’t going away; they’re actually becoming more of a pain, but they don’t have to be.

My favorite password manager is LastPass but there are others out there as well. You can learn about many of the best password managers by checking out this PC Magazine article.

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Windows 10 Free Offer Set to Expire

My friends there are only 4 days left to accept Microsoft’s free Windows 10 offer. After that upgrading will cost you, although I am not yet sure how much Microsoft will charge.
One thing is for certain, upgrading after July 29 will be much more than “free”.
There has been much bad press with Windows 10. In fact the bad press, much of it deserved began with the release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012. However looking back is unwise. Windows 10 has actually developed into a very good operating system, especially if your PC is relatively new. My recommendation is that if your PC is less then 2 years old I would upgrade to Windows 10 for free, unless you have something unique running on your computer. Gamers should also be a little cautious in respect to moving to Windows 10.
Here are some reasons I believe upgrading to Windows 10 would be a wise choice.
1. Free upgrade. This is pretty simple.  Windows 10 is the best version of Windows thus far and has the highest customer satisfaction to date. This is also the final version of Windows.  And the best part is that all future updates will be free for the life of the computer.
2. Free Windows 10 Anniversary Update.  Update before the July 29th and you will be eligible for the Anniversary update on August 2 as well.  This update will vastly improve the current Windows 10.
3. Free Inspiron. Microsoft will give you a free Inspiron 15 laptop from Dell if they can’t update your laptop to Windows 10 with same-day service.
4. Cortana. Now you can have a personal assistant on your computer that is ready to inform you of the latest news, remind you of events and even tell if rain is on the way. You can simply speak of type your command and Cortana will come to respond in kind.
5. Continuum. This nifty feature allows Windows 10 users (who use tablet based system) to easily switch between a tablet and desktop view by simply disconnecting the keyboard from the tablet.  This allows for a more intuitive operating experience.
6. Superior Protection. Windows 10 is much more secure than Windows 7 or 8 thanks to Windows Defender, Windows Passport, and Windows Hello.  All of which are included free when you upgrade.
7. Enhanced Productivity.  Users can use Microsoft Edge (replacement for Internet Explorer) and Cortana to experience voice control, search, and garner personalized information. Users can use Edge to annotate web pages.  Annotations can then be stored on OneDrive and be used with other users.
8. DirectX 12. DirectX 12 will only be available with the Windows 10 upgrade. This is a must for hardcore PC gamers as it reduces power consumption and provides support for powerful graphics cards.
9. Xbox Compatibility.  Windows 10 will come with the Xbox app that allows for messaging across the systems, streaming Xbox games to your computer, and even playing certain games straight from your computer.
10. Powerful Utility Tools. Windows 10 bundled with extra tools that support activities such as easy version history recovery, quick and easy storage management, and natural language search. Windows power users will love such bonuses as Linux’s Bash shell, enhanced aero snap/ snap assist, virtual desktops and OneDrive Fetch.
So far, recent estimates show that more than 350 million people have upgraded to Windows 10.  However, this number falls considerably short of Microsoft’s goal to have 1 billion.  The countdown is on and there are still a few more days left.

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Microsoft Enhances OneDrive in a Big Way

One of the best ways to protect your photos is to back them up automatically using a cloud service. My favorite one for this is Microsoft’s OneDrive. Once installing OneDrive on your smartphone (and sign up – or into) the service you can setup automatic photo uploads. Once you do this you will be able to access your photos from wherever you are – on whatever device you are using, assuming you have internet access.

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I have been using OneDrive for years to backup and manage my photos and the service has improved over the years. This week Microsoft updated OneDrive which really makes this a great solution for anyone looking to backup and manage their photos.

Backing up your photos is incredibly important because someday your smartphone may (will) fail or be lost or stolen and you do not want to be in a position where all of your photos are gone.

Let’s take a look at the major OneDrive updates, including yes, a enhancement for Pokemon gamers.

Automatic albums is probably the most handy addition, and reminds us of Google Photos. OneDrive now detects when you took a few photos in a short period of time and in a particular location. The highest quality photos are selected and put into an album, and you get a notification when they’re ready to view and share. Automatic albums appear on OneDrive.com, in OneDrive’s mobile apps, and in the Windows 10 Photos app.

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Speaking of the Windows 10 Photos app, you can now expect tighter integration with OneDrive. When you sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft account, all of your OneDrive photos will now show up. You can also use the app to upload local albums to OneDrive.

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The OneDrive.com website has gained a new “On this day” view in your All photos page. As the name implies, this view shows images you took over the years on that same day.

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Another view is the one dedicated to your folders that have a lot of photos in them. The new photos view includes a hero image, larger thumbnails, and a revised menu to help you quickly create an album or share photos.

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Search now works directly in the All photos view, understands photos that have been tagged, photos from a specific location, and even supports using emojis. These new types of searches work on OneDrive.com as well as the OneDrive mobile apps.

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Last but not least, Microsoft is jumping on the Pokémon Go bandwagon. If you take screenshots of your captured Pokémon, you’ll want to have the OneDrive mobile app installed. Thanks to some Microsoft Research technology, as long as you have camera upload turned on, the app will save your screenshots and identify all 150 Pokémon for you. You can then view and search for the Pokémon right in OneDrive.

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Updates like this one are a great reminder that competition in the cloud storage space is still fierce. And yet, no matter how many useful features Microsoft adds, it will continue to face an uphill battle because of its failures in mobile.

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Technology Stops Many Southwest Airlines Flights

Technology surrounds us. Without it things just do not happen. Even those among us who try to not rely on technology often find themselves impacted by how it works – or how it does not. You can see how technology impacts our everyday lives by learning about Southwest Airline’s woes yesterday that left thousands stranded.

Southwest Airlines in Dallas said yesterday that performance issues with its technology systems had led to flight delays.

The airline said it began experiencing intermittent performance issues in the afternoon with multiple technology systems as a result of an outage. “We are now managing flight delays across our system, with a temporary ground stop in place for those flights that have not left the gate,” it said in a statement.

The airline’s website also had a notice saying, “We’re working hard to get you where you want to be….Thank you for your patience,” suggesting that online reservations, check-ins and other customer services would not be immediately possible. Users were asked not to refresh their browsers as they would be automatically transferred to the site as soon as possible.

“Once our systems resume full functionality, we’re offering flexible accommodations for rebooking your travel. Please stay tuned for more,” the airline said in a Twitter message.

With luck normal operations will hopefully to be restored on today. The airline said in a second statement late last night that it will reduce the number of flights departing after 9:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Wednesday in an effort to fully restore its system for the next day’s operation. The airline said the computer issues had resulted in 600 to 700 canceled and delayed flights across its network.

About 836 Southwest flights were delayed in October in what was also described as a  problem related to the airline’s technology systems. Employees had to work around issues with primary systems and used back-up procedures to get customers and their checked luggage to their intended destinations, the airline said.

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My 8 Favorite iPhone Tips

The tech news has been slow this week so lets use the time wisely to catch up on some of the best iPhone tips and tricks directly from Apple. Here are 8 of my favorite official iPhone Tips.

1 – Check app battery usage for a fresh look at how you’re using power.

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2 – Meeting a friend? It’s easy to use 3D Touch for directions without leaving Messages on  the iPhone6s. Here’s how:

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3 – Signed, sealed, delivered.

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4 – Want to take your iPhone photo skills to the next level? Try these tips for awesome still photos!

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5 – Want to send an extra special iMessage? Use an audio message to reach out to long-distance loved ones.

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6 – Digital breadcrumbs for your favorite adventures, big and small.

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7 – Sometimes, emails are more than you bargained for. Mark them unread to read again later.

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8. Can’t take an incoming call? Have a little fun with your text responses.

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There you go. I hope a couple of these tips help you get a little more out of your iPhone.

 

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 18 – “Legacies Book 1 – Captain to Captain”

This year I have truly enjoyed delving into old & new Star Trek novels as my little way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. The three book “Legacy” series which launched with Greg Cox’s “Captain to Captain” brings with it much promise as a Trek universe spanning adventure.

The cover art really sets the tone of the story in “Captain to Captain”.

This first novel did not let me down and it was one that I could not put down.

The best part of this novel is the character of Number One who only appeared in the original pilot “The Cage” and as part of flashbacks in the Original Series episode of “The Menagerie.” There wasn’t much character development in “The Cage” but in this novel the character is fully fleshed out and three dimensional. The entire time I was reading this story I could picture Majel Barrett as the character.

The story itself was very interesting and included a great sub-story involving Robert April, a captain with little backstory in the Trek Universe other than being the first captain of the USS Enterprise. Overall, this is a great Star Trek story to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Original Series. I look forward to reading the next two novels.

Oh and slugs were terrifying!

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Outlawing Ransomware?

Legislation has yet to catch up with technology. Perhaps – finally legislators will begin to understand that they have some power to actually protect consumers where new technologies are concerned. There is hope coming out of California where tech law is concerned.

State legislation to outlaw ransomware is drawing broad support from tech leaders and lawmakers, spurred by an uptick in that type of cybercrime and a series of recent attacks on hospitals in Southern California.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), would update the state’s penal code, making it a felony to knowingly use ransomware, a type of malware or intrusive software that is injected into a computer or network and allows a hacker to hold data hostage until money is paid.

Ransomware has become a lucrative industry over the last three years, affecting schools, police departments and healthcare businesses. Trojans that work like viruses, such as CryptoLocker — which began appearing in 2013 — can be unleashed by users with few technical skills and reel in profits.

Proponents say the proposed ransomware law is the right step to counter attacks difficult to prosecute under existing statutes that are not tailored to combat computer crime. But some question just who will get caught in the dragnet, as such incidents are tough to trace and culprits are often overseas.

Victims nationwide lost more than $209 million in ransomware payments in the first three months of 2016 alone, compared with $25 million in all of 2015, according to the FBI.

But no arrests were made. Nor were arrests made in more than half a dozen of ransomware incidents investigated by the Cyber Investigation Response Team of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which is a co-sponsor of the bill.

 

Ransomware Defined

Ransomware attacks are instigated when a person clicks on a compromised website or opens an infected email. The programs encrypt files, such as photographs, videos or documents, and they cannot be accessed without an encryption key.

Security researchers first saw similar attacks in 1989, when the so-called AIDS Trojan virus locked people out of their files if they clicked through a quiz about their sexual and drug habits. Ransomware has evolved over the last decade with the creation of “police screen lockers,” pop-up screens that appear to be created by law enforcement agencies that fraudulently order people to pay fines after accusing them of downloading pirated movies or child pornography.

At the federal level, prosecutors can use the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to target ransomware. But state prosecutors typically must pursue such cases under laws against extortion, or those that target threats to injure a person or property that have not been acted upon.

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That’s One Darn Cute Game Console

When this tech news appeared you cannot know how happy it made me. Sure you can download emulators for these classic Nintendo games but to finally have Nintendo provide a new console with all of these glorious games available in one console with the same classic controllers is pure gaming heaven to someone my age.

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The original Nintendo Entertainment System revolutionized the video game system when it was released in the mid-1980s here in North America after being first introduced in Japan. The combination of killer games, good looks and a lovable mascot in Mario was it all took for millions of kids (like me) to demand one from their parents.

I still have my original NES along with a few surviving games and it stills works. For people like me as well as gamers who are too young to have gotten their hands on one are now in luck because Nintendo announced today the Mini-NES, a $60 system with a HDMI port, classic controller and 30 built-in classic games for everyone to enjoy!

The new/old console is scheduled to hit store shelves November 11, 2016 which is just in time for the holidays!

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