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Posted In: Windows 10

More power for power users

Microsoft is adding a new power scheme for Windows 10 Pro users.  This is great for those of us who always want to go faster.  That certainly includes me.  This new mode should be available in the next update expected around March or April.  Now the one caveat is that you can’t use this on computers with a battery.  Yes, that means laptops are out.  But those of you doing high powered work on high end workstations should see a difference.  Microsoft has adjusted the high performance policy to eliminate micro-latencies.  In computers, a lot of micro will certainly equal some macro changes, if you get what I’m saying.  Enjoy!

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Everyone, Windows 10

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Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

Windows 10, released at the very end of July, is now installed worldwide on 200 million desktops, laptops, tablets and such. Some are new and some are upgrades, which Microsoft has aggressively pushed to owners of devices running Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Fully 40% of new Windows installations have been registered since Thanksgiving.

And Microsoft is really, really pushing to get Windows 10 on one billion computers by the end of this year. It’s been rumored that they will be including the Windows 10 installer as part of their periodic updates to computers running eligible earlier version of Windows. Then, when you finally relent and say Yes to the upgrade reminders it will be ready to start immediately. We’ll see.
If you are one of the people who has a shiny new device running the shiny new OS, try out some of its new capabilities.

One feature that some other operating systems have had for many years is virtual desktops. You have long been able to have them in Windows, but only by using other software; the ability wasn’t baked in to Windows itself. Now it is.

Of what use are virtual desktops? You might be working on a project that is split between two dissimilar sets of tasks, say graphic design and copy writing or editing documents and researching online. For your graphic design tasks, you’ll have windows open for all the images you use, and for your writing you might have a few documents and spreadsheets and websites open. Virtual desktops to the rescue.
Open Task View, either by clicking on the icon on the toolbar that looks like two overlapping windows (or the top view of a card table and two chairs) or by pressing and holding the Windows key and tapping the Tab key. In the lower right corner of the screen click on the New Desktop link. You will see small snapshots at the bottom of the screen, labelled Desktop 1 and Desktop 2 (and you can create many more in the same manner). One snapshot has your current documents and one is empty of all but your desktop icons.

To arrange your workspaces, you now have two choices. Above the two desktops snapshots you will see all of the documents that are open in Desktop 1. You can drag any of those documents from above down to Desktop 2. You could also simply switch to the empty desktop and start opening documents in it.
Once your documents are segregated into their new desktops, simply press Windows key + Tab to swap views. Use your mouse or the arrow or Tab keys to select the desktop you want. Or, more simply, hold down the Windows and Control keys and tap the left and right arrow keys to slide back and forth between desktops.

It may seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but if you are juggling a lot of open documents, this is a simple way to rearrange the clutter. However, the Windows implementation of virtual desktops is not yet all that it could be. You can’t have different icons on each desktop, and the background image or color is the same on all of them. It would be easier to differentiate them if you could make them truly different. The only way to do that now is to log in with a different user name. Or, you could stay old school and use a dual monitor setup or one of an increasing number of large, high-resolution monitors.
And, unfortunately, your desktops layouts don’t persist when you shut down your computer, since the documents in them must be closed. When you start your computer the next time, you’ll have two desktops, but they’ll both be empty; you’ll have to set them up all over again if you want to continue as before.
As implemented now, the Windows 10 virtual desktops are a limited but sometimes useful tool. Microsoft is continuing feature development in Windows 10 and plans a major update release in the next few months with the working codename Redstone. That might be the time when you see virtual desktops become more versatile. The Edge browser is also scheduled for a significant upgrade at that time.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Everyone, Windows 10

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Upgrading to Windows 10-or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It actually wasn’t a bad experience, but it was…leisurely. If you plan to upgrade, set aside plenty of time during which you can keep an eye on your computer but are distracted enough that you don’t get frustrated by the progress bars that never seem to actually progress. You’ll need to do something that allows you to take a few short breaks to tend to the process without missing anything; a golf tournament on TV should just about cover it. Or you could write an article about upgrading to Windows 10. Whatever you do, don’t binge-watch a streaming service; you’ll need to keep your Internet connection uncluttered for a while.

If you have received a message from Microsoft that your computer can be upgraded, then it probably passed the cursory check and you can upgrade for free until next July. Look on your computer manufacturer’s website for information about your model; see what they have to say. Basically, any computer running Windows 8 is good to go (but must be updated to 8.1 first), as well as some Windows 7 computers (it depends on the motherboard hardware).

Of course, you could always wait and just buy a new computer with Windows 10, but in the next few months, there may be some good deals on models with the “old” Windows 8.1. And a sale is a sale, right?

A few steps of prep will help you along. Update your computer. Let Windows update everything it wants to. If you’ve just bought a new computer with Windows 8.1 (the subject of this experiment), get the upgrade done before you’ve stored anything on the hard drive or set up mail accounts, etc., it’s easier that way. But don’t upgrade right out of the box. Leave the computer running for a day or two and let Windows do its first big update. And if you have any programs to install or activate, wait until after the upgrade (although MS Office migrated just fine).

Some manufacturers recommend updating your computer’s BIOS first, if it needs it. Flashing the BIOS is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for newbies. If you screw this up, your computer is complete toast. Seriously. Toast. And if your computer is new enough, your BIOS is unlikely to need updating, so it may be best to skip this.

If you have files on your computer, back them up. If you have a hard drive with less than 128GB free space, you will need an empty USB flash drive (not SD card) of at least 32GB. Just get a plain flash drive without any security features. You will store this drive afterward as the rescue disk for restoring Windows; label it and keep it safe. Also, get some paper and a pen, and a camera to take screen shots if there’s a problem. It’s also handy to have a second computer to look things up on the Web, just in case.

What follows is not a step-by-excruciating-step guide; it’s a story of one upgrade on one new Windows 8.1 computer (an ultraportable laptop with a solid state drive). Your mileage may vary.

If you received notice that you can upgrade, start the process in the Windows Update program. Upgrading is a straightforward process and the dialog boxes are informative and conversational. But it is tedious. Just how tedious it is depends on which version of Windows you are upgrading from (the upgrade will install the equivalent version). Windows Home/Pro, 32-bit/64-bit are all different sizes.

So, on the computer in question the process began at 2:35 PM. The Windows 10 64-bit download (just over 2.7GB) took one hour and three minutes. At the end, the program announced that it was preparing for installation. Thirty uneventful minutes later a message popped up to the effect of—“Something on your computer needs attention.” It was at that point that Windows asked for the USB flash drive to be installed, and after selecting it in the drop-down and clicking the Next button, the process resumed. Windows then helpfully instructed “Close this window and we’ll let you know if anything else is needed.” Apparently Microsoft uses the royal “we”.

At 4:18 it started the actual upgrade and at 4:26 PM rebooted automatically. At this point, after logging in, a screen appeared titled “Upgrading Windows”, and “Your PC will restart several times. Sit back and relax.” Thanks.

This screen tracks three activities, one after the other: copying files, installing features and drivers, and configuring settings. At 5:50 PM it was 24% through the process and had copied 83% of the files. Whatever file(s) were copied at 72% took nearly 10 minutes before the screen showed any progress. Unfortunately, there is no indication as to where the files are being copied from or to, and since this computer has a solid-state drive, there is no drive noise and no drive activity indicator. You just have to trust that it’s working, and it was.

At 6:06PM, with the screen showing 26% completion and files 89% copied everything went black and the computer rebooted. Scary. But when it came back up a minute or two later it had finished copying files and moved on to installing features and drivers. At 6:18 the upgrade process hit 50%, two minutes later it jumped to 66%. Reboot at 6:24, 75% done and moving on to configuring settings.

Done! Sort of! At 6:32 the computer displayed: “Hi there, welcome back!” Click the Next button and use Express settings (you can change them later), click Next again and you’re at your login screen. The new post-apocalyptic Windows logo looks like an air duct with a light in it. And now you wait, as the computer tells you “We’re setting things up for you.”, then “This won’t take long—Setting up your apps”, then “Taking care of a few things. Don’t turn off your PC.” Finally…”Let’s start.” And the first screen you see is a promotion to sign up for free Dropbox space for 6 months. Ugh. All done and at the home screen at 6:42 PM.

So, on this computer—new and clean—the total conversion took 4 hours and 7minutes. That’s in line with many reports on the Web, and it’s why you must plug the laptop into an outlet; you can’t risk running out of juice in the middle of this.

Finally, a couple of notes: Windows was great at saving the settings and Office works just fine, but it did not migrate the printer drivers. During the upgrade, a mouse was plugged in to a USB port, and that confused Windows. The track pad didn’t work, but it was an easy fix; Windows thought it was plugged in to USB just like the mouse. Changed that setting and rebooted.

So, what if you decide now that you don’t like Windows 10? No problem. You have a month to try it out. Windows stores the rollback files for 30 days, after which it discards them. If you don’t like Windows 10, go to Update & Security, Recovery and tell it you want to go back. How does that process work? Sorry, you’re on your own for that one.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Everyone, Windows 10

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Windows 10. Is it for you?

Later this month—July 29—Windows 10 (and the computers that run it) goes on sale. What do you do? Jump on? Wait? Upgrade your current computer? Go to the beach?

Those are all reasonable options, so let’s explore them.

What’s important about Windows 10?

It’s envisioned as the core of all Windows devices—desktops, tablets, phones—one Windows experience across all devices. Will you switch from Android or iOS to gain that benefit? That depends largely on what apps are available.  Here’s some of the new features that everyone is talking about:

1. User Interface
Microsoft heard you loud and clear about the Modern interface in Windows 8 and did a major backpedalling in 8.1. Windows 10 goes even further to merge what everyone is used to (and what makes sense from a user’s viewpoint). Microsoft now is touting it as the best of Windows 7 and 8.1 without the wall between the two modes of display. And they’ve brought back the Start menu, with additional functionality.

2. Apps
There’ll be apps for your computer just as there are for phones and tablets—and an app store to sell them to you (and to buy and download regular applications like Office).
Cortana. Your personal assistant and general know-it-all migrates from Windows Phone to your desktop. Integrating your personal settings and information, Cortana can do all your searches for you, whether written or spoken.

3. Browsers
The new-from-the-ground-up browser is called Edge. Internet Explorer is also included for backward compatibility with business applications that require it. Even though IE has improved greatly in the 3 most recent versions, starting with a clean slate allowed Microsoft to shed some legacy code that was less useful now that web standards have evolved. Plus, Edge has lots of new features, such as the ability to type comments directly on a web page and share it with other people.

4. Virtual desktops
This has long been a feature of some other operating systems (and available for Windows via aftermarket programs). If you use your computer for both work and personal tasks, you can set your desktops with just the icons you need for each. If you share a computer with family members, each person can have their own desktop. If parts of your work day are spent in clearly defined tasks, different desktops can give you the control you need without all the visual clutter of your other duties.

5. Smart interface
If you’re using a computer with a keyboard and mouse, Windows 10 can dispense with the touch-screen controls, and vice versa.

6. It’s free
Sort of. For the first year after its release, you can upgrade your Windows 7/8/8.1 computer to Windows 10. Maybe. Computers running Windows XP and Vista cannot upgrade, and some older Windows 7 computers might also be unable to run Windows 10 due to hardware shortcomings. The system requirements are modest, but there is a significant set of details that might be a problem. Your system’s processor must support 3 specific instruction sets: SSE2, PAE, and NX. SSE2 is the easy one; it’s been common for a long time, but PAE and NX could derail your plans. To see if your Windows 7 system will support Windows 10, go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-assistant-download-online-faq. Download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. If it passes that test, you’re good to go; all Windows 8 computers can run Windows 10. Then it’s just a matter of downloading the 3GB (gulp!) Windows 10 installation file.

If you just want to check on your processor for compatibility, go to http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html and click the button marked Setup-English in the download section. When you run the little program, look in the Instructions window for SSE2, EM64T, and either VT-d or VT-x. EM64T shows that PAE is supported, and the VT instructions show that the processor supports NX (a hardware layer of security).

There will be 7 versions of Windows 10—Home, Pro, and Enterprise will be the common ones for desktop use. Windows 10 Mobile will be used on phones and tablets with screens smaller than 8 inches. There will also be volume licenses available for Windows 10 Education (not a retail version), Mobile Enterprise, and a version for use in embedded devices.

Windows 10 Home will be the most common consumer version, but, besides its lack of business-oriented features, there is one rumored change in the Home version that may cause concern for control freaks. Windows Update will automatically apply all updates as they are issued. You will not be able to delay them or refuse them or do them on your schedule. So, if you use those settings in Windows Update now, it may be that you have to give up that control in version 10.

It’s also rumored that Windows 10 will be the last release of Windows as a distinct version. If Windows Update is indeed automatic, Microsoft can update the OS incrementally, as needed. Time will tell.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Everyone, Windows 10

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