Doing email — options

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Nov 282017
 

When I ask some of my clients how they get to their email, a typical response is “AOL” or “hotmail” or “Google.” Or they might say “myname@hotmail.com” or “myname@aol.com.” Well, that’s not what I’m trying to understand.

Knowing their preferred service company or email address is a start, but I’m more interested in whether they get to their messages on a desktop or notebook computer or on a smartphone or tablet (or all of those devices). And if on a desktop or notebook computer, whether they use a special purpose program (like Microsoft’s Outlook, Apple’s Mail, Mozilla’s Thunderbird) or a general purpose program — a Web Browser like Microsoft’s Edge, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, etc.

There are pros and cons to each option. When a Web Browser is used to access your email on a service provider’s Web site, this method is called Webmail. One advantage to this is that you visit other sites (web pages) using your browser and so webmail is just visiting a special type of site. And you can do this anytime and anywhere you have a device with an Internet connection and a browser. No special programs need to be installed and configured. You do not even need to use your own computer.

Webmail can be tedious, however, when you have many email addresses (and accounts with several email service providers) — going to separate sites to check each one.

A special purpose email program, however, can typically manage multiple accounts and Inboxes, which makes checking those accounts more convenient. A special purpose program also may in general be easier to use (a friendlier graphical user interface). That’s why many pepople still use the AOL Desktop program.

On smartphones you’ll generally want to use a special purpose app, like Apple’s Mail or Google’s Gmail app.

Here’s a drawing intended to clarify these email options (link to pdf version below).

Drawing

email options-app_vs_webmail

Oct 172017
 

We’ll explain why Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update is worth your time in our review. Here’s what’s different this time around: There’s new hardware, too.

PC World today shared the news that Microsoft is rolling out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: “Windows 10 Fall Creators Update review: This could be Microsoft’s biggest Windows yet.” As in past Updates (which install like entire new editions of Windows 10, as large downloads with extended install times), there’s a way for early adopters to grab the Update now, while most of us will get it over time like other monthly Windows updates.

Update: The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is now available, and can be manually downloaded/upgraded via the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant. Otherwise, Microsoft will automatically push the FCU to all PCs in a series of waves that should last for a few weeks. 

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is what every sequel shoots for: bigger, better, more ambitious than the original. As it rolls out in phases starting Tuesday (see Microsoft’s blog post for details), our review focuses on Windows’ big, risky bet on mixed reality, plus smarter investments in the pen, creative 3D apps, Edge, and even speech. A ton of practical, everyday additions won us over, including OneDrive placeholders and much longer battery life while watching movies.

See the full article for what’s new and what’s changed.

PC World has separate articles for various aspects of the Update. For example, “Hands on with Windows 10’s Story Remix, the new tool to make your photos pop” covers the new Remix app.

Microsoft’s Story Remix was expected to be one of the highlights of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it lives up to that promise, combining the existing, excellent Photos app with a video and slideshow editor that adds transitions, music, and even fantastic 3D animations.

It’s worth noting, though, that Story Remix and Photos exist (for now) within a sort of odd, yin-yang duality where both apps co-exist. If you choose to open or edit a file within Photos via File Explorer, Windows will open the “traditional” Photos interface. But if you simply launch the Photos app, the Story Remix interface will open. Interestingly, there also seems to be no way to transition between the two interfaces within the app itself.

There’a also a separate slideshow: “The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.

Feature update version

W10 Fall Creators Update

Oct 162017
 

“Fortify your PC against all manner of attacks—for free!”

This PC World article “How to build the best free PC security software suite” (October 16, 2017) is one of the best digests of the topic that I’ve encountered. The article offers a ready summary of what you need to cover various security risks on your PC. For those not wanting to purchase an annual computer security subscription (with auto renew, eh) — but not go potluck — and willing to blend together a solution, the recommendations agree with my research and experience.

Antivirus software is the key component of any security suite, and for good reason—it’s going to be your primary defense against malware. Windows offers its own built-in anti-virus program called Windows Defender for Windows 8.1 and up—Windows 7 users can download and install Security Essentials. Windows’ solution offers fairly good basic security, but most third-party testing firms find that it falls short of third-party security suites. The upshot is: If you’re a security-aware user who’s willing to occasionally run a scan with Malwarebytes (see below) then Defender may be enough.

Avira Antivirus Free Edition and Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition are two free products worth your attention. According to recent benchmarks published by the German antivirus testing firm AV-Test, paid products for both Avira and Bitdefender won top marks on all three of the firm’s major testing categories including protection, performance, and usability; both did a perfect or near-perfect job at stopping malware and other threats. Avira did score one false positive from AV-Test when it identified legitimate software as malware during a system scan.

And, as for any free PC app, there’s a caution:

… free products can include browser toolbars, extensions, or other desktop programs that you might not want. Freebies can also have ads that help their makers pay the bills. Be mindful while you’re installing free programs to avoid also installing bloatware you don’t want, which is often flagged for installation by default.

Read the full article for recommendations to safeguard your PC in other ways.

Face ID Q&A — beyond Touch ID

 Computer, Phone, Site  Comments Off on Face ID Q&A — beyond Touch ID
Sep 282017
 

I’ve talked with at least one iPhone enthusiast who’s going to get Apple’s new iPhone X — and willing to wait until it ships. It’ll be interesting to get his reaction to the new Face ID feature. In the mean time, this CNET article “10 things we learned about Face ID on the iPhone X” is a useful summary of face-scanning.

Curious about using your face to unlock your phone? Apprehensive about Face ID and Apple Pay? Apple published an extensive guide on Face ID in advance of the upcoming iPhone X. You can read it all yourself. Also, check out our in-depth look at the security aspects of Face ID and general overview of the tech.

This isn’t the first time Apple’s mentioned some of these features, but it all feels much more official now.  Here are the ones that stood out …

Yes, you’ll still need to use a regular passcode at times.  Note the additional citations in the article for more information.

macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not

 Computer, Desktop, News, Notebook  Comments Off on macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not
Sep 252017
 

Starting today, the latest upgrade for macOS — High Sierra — is available. As always, the question is whether to upgrade or not; or, when to upgrade. This CNET article “7 things to know before upgrading to MacOS High Sierra 10.13” discusses this question:

“Yes, if you answer any of these affirmatively:

  • You’re paranoid about security. Some say that the update is essential in order to get a complete set of security fixes, but it’s not like Apple is going to keep Sierra unpatched. Enterprises are running even older versions and they’ll continue to be patched. But if you think the potential security advantages outweigh the possibility of running into application issues, then update.
  • Your system has an SSD, not a Fusion Drive or HDD.
  • You’ve updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 11 and shoot photos and videos with the new file formats.
  • You’re a big Photos user.
  • You have a complicated family to manage with iCloud.
  • You’ve been screaming for the specific capabilities added in those particular applications.”

Best practice usually is to wait awhile — a week to a month — before upgrading. If your Mac is not running Sierra (10.12) and is compatible, then upgrading definitely makes sense. If you decide to upgrade, first backup your Mac’s internal hard drive (or at least all your personal files); and do so when you don’t need to use your computer for a few hours.

This CNET YouTube video (below) reviews the changes.

App Store > Featured > Info
macOS High Sierra
Size: 4.80 GB

New technologies at the heart of the system make your Mac more reliable, capable, and responsive — and lay the foundation for future innovations. macOS High Sierra also refines the features and apps you use every day. It’s macOS at its highest level yet.

Easily organize, edit and view your photos in Photos.
Make short videos from your Live Photos using new Loop and Bounce effects.
Easily locate and organize your content with the new sidebar.
Conveniently access all of your editing tools in the redesigned Edit View.
Fine-tune color and contrast in your photos with new Curves and Selective Color tools.
Access third-party apps directly from Photos and save the edited images back to your Photos library.
Rediscover images from your library with new Memories themes including pets, weddings, outdoor activities, and more.
Create printed photo products and more using new third-party project extensions.

Improve your browsing experience with Safari.
Stop web video with audio from playing automatically.
Prevent websites and ad networks from tracking your browsing with Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
Customize your browsing experience with new per-site settings for Reader, page zoom, content blockers, and more.

Enjoy refinements in Mail.
Instantly find the messages most relevant to your search using Top Hits.
Use Split View when composing new email in full screen.
Save space on your Mac with compressed messages.

Look up flight information in Spotlight.
Check the status of a flight by typing the airline and flight number in the Spotlight search field.

Collect your thoughts with Notes.
Organize your information using configurable tables.
Pin your favorite notes so they’re always at the top of the list.

Capture a moment in FaceTime.
Take a Live Photo during a video call to any supported Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Get music suggestions from a more natural-sounding Siri.
Hear more variations in intonation, emphasis, and tempo when Siri responds to you.
Enjoy personalized music recommendations from Siri when you listen to Apple Music.

Copy and paste files from one Mac to another with Universal Clipboard.
Copy and paste files between your Macs using standard copy and paste commands.

Safely store your family data in iCloud.
Share a single iCloud storage plan with your family and keep everyone’s data backed up and safely stored.
Set up your family with a few clicks and add capabilities when needed.

Work together with iCloud Drive.
Share and work on any file in iCloud Drive with other people so it is always be up to date with the latest edits.

Upgrade the performance, reliability, and security of your Mac with the new Apple File System.
Update to a new file system architecture designed for all-flash Macs.
Experience greater responsiveness when performing common tasks like duplicating a file and finding the size of a folder.
Enjoy faster and more reliable backups.
Protect your entire drive with built-in native encryption for greater security.

Step up to the new standard for 4K video: HEVC.
Create and watch high-resolution video with High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), which uses up to 40 percent less space without sacrificing quality.

Enjoy next-generation graphics and computation with Metal 2.
Get the most out of the graphics capabilities of your Mac with the new and improved version of Metal.
Discover immersive tools for content creation with support for virtual reality.
Build state-of-the-art apps with features that accelerate common machine learning functions.

Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages. Some features require an iCloud storage plan. Some features have hardware requirements. Apple File System requires all-flash internal storage.

iPhone 8 or 8 Plus — first things to do

 Computer, News, Phone, Video  Comments Off on iPhone 8 or 8 Plus — first things to do
Sep 222017
 

As for previous models of Apple’s iPhone, MacWorld today published an article on things to do first after getting a new one: Got an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus? Do these 10 things first.

Well, you did it. You pulled the trigger on a shiny new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Nice! Before you head out to take a squillion photos or plop it down on your new wireless charging pad, there are a few housekeeping details you should tend to first.

  1. Backup and restore
  2. Finish the setup
  3. Set up Touch ID and Apple Pay
  4. Choose the Home button’s feel
  5. Update your apps
  6. (Pair your Apple Watch)
  7. Try the new camera
  8. Edit a Live Photo
  9. Customize your Control Center
  10. Charge it up
  11. (Call your mom)

And this CNET video “Favorite features in iOS 11 in 60 seconds (Tech Minute)” (below) highlights new features in iOS, if you got a new iPhone 8 or upgraded your older iPhone or iPad.

 

iOS 11 Upgrade — new features for iPhone and iPad

 Computer, News, Phone, Tablet  Comments Off on iOS 11 Upgrade — new features for iPhone and iPad
Sep 192017
 

Starting today (September 19, 2017), the iOS 11 upgrade for iPhone and iPad will be available on your Apple devices. There’s lots of coverage of this release. Here’s one (Macworld) article reviewing the changes and new features: “iOS 11 review: Apple’s most ambitious and impressive upgrade in years.”

If you’re an iPad user, download iOS 11 immediately. It’s a huge update that makes major improvements to the two-year-old multitasking features, and drag-and-drop and Files have the potential to transform iPad productivity.

If you’re an iPhone user—well, who are we kidding, you’re almost certainly going to upgrade to iOS 11, too. And you’ll be right to do so. This is a great collection of new features, Apple’s best iOS upgrade in years. The new, customizable Control Center is a winner. Do Not Disturb While Driving will make the roads safer. And ARKit threatens to kick off a revolution in augmented-reality applications. This is all great stuff.

 

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update — privacy tweaks

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Sep 132017
 

In this PC World article “Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will add helpful privacy setting tweaks,” senior editor Brad Chacos notes that:

Privacy concerns have plagued Windows 10 since its launch. It’s no surprise: The operating system is designed to ensnare you in Microsoft’s services, and you can’t stop it from sending Microsoft basic telemetry data about your device. But Microsoft has been working hard to assuage the concerns, and on Wednesday it announced enhanced privacy settings coming in October’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

While such disclosure by Microsoft may well be a step forward, any new privacy agreement is hardly something that “mere mortals” will likely parse and ponder. But any settings that can limit data collection or the degree of such collection might be worth the effort and time investigating.

How companies collect, store, and share personal information via the purchase and use of their products and services is concerning. Even when such items are “free.”

Anti-phishing test results 2017

 Computer  Comments Off on Anti-phishing test results 2017
Aug 022017
 

If you’re particularly worried about somehow landing on a malicious website while browsing the Internet, then this PC World (August 1, 2017) article “AV-Comparatives’ anti-phishing results for 2017 put Avast, Bitdefender, Fortinet, and Kaspersky on top” may be useful.

In previous posts, I’ve noted PC World’s summaries of test results by the independent computer security test organization AV-Comparatives.

All four passing software packages got through the false alarm test without making a mistake. Bitdefender won the top spot for detecting actual phishing sites with a detection rate of 96 percent. Coming up right behind Bitdefender was Fortinet with a 95 percent detection rate followed by Kaspersky and Avast with 93 and 92 percent detection rates, respectively.

You can check out the full anti-phishing results on AV-Comparatives’ website.

Some of my clients use free anti-virus (AV) programs. Pros and cons.

Should I go free or paid for antivirus? But there isn’t a good answer to that question. It really comes down to what you’re willing to put up with. If you just need basic protection then most free antivirus suites are probably fine.

The best way to use AV-Comparatives’ free vs. paid report is as a reference guide for the 15 services it covers.1

And remember, regardless of your choice for AV, use Malwarebytes Anti-malware also (free or premium version).

 

[1] The report is available in PDF format here.

Adaware Antivirus Free
Avast Free Antivirus
AVG Antivirus Free
Avira Free Antivirus
Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
Comodo Internet Security Free
Fortinet FortiClient
Kaspersky Free
McAfee Cloud AV
Microsoft Windows Defender / MSE5
Panda Free Antivirus
Qihoo 360 Total Security Free
Sophos Home Free
Tencent PC Manager
ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall

Adobe Flash phaseout

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Jul 252017
 

Adobe Flash has a checkered history. Although in use for decades, many of my clients do not understand what Flash does. “There’s a message that Adobe Flash is not installed — should I install it? The web page is requesting that I enable Flash — is that okay? There’s a message that Flash is out-of-date — do I need to do something?”

So, when the occasion arises, I say that unless there’s some really compelling reason to use Flash, the best practice is not to. I mention the long-running security issues, and that it’s being phased out. But there’s still the question: what is Flash?

Today, PC World published an article “Adobe Flash will die by 2020, Adobe and browser makers say” summarizing the timetable for phaseout.

Adobe Flash, one of the most controversial elements of the web, will be phased out by 2020, Adobe said Tuesday. Browser makers, including Microsoft and Google, simultaneously announced plans for a gradual phaseout over the next few years.

Specifically, Adobe Flash Player will be end-of-lifed by 2020, the company said, meaning that it simply won’t work.

In a blog post, Microsoft laid out its timeline for phasing out Flash support from Edge:

  • Through the end of 2017 and into 2018, Microsoft Edge will continue to ask users for permission to run Flash on most sites the first time the site is visited, and will remember the user’s preference on subsequent visits. Internet Explorer will continue to allow Flash with no special permissions required during this time.
  • In mid to late 2018, Microsoft will update Microsoft Edge to require permission for Flash to be run each session. Internet Explorer will continue to allow Flash for all sites in 2018.
  • In mid to late 2019, Microsoft will disable Flash by default in both Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. Users will be able to re-enable Flash in both browsers. When re-enabled, Microsoft Edge will continue to require approval for Flash on a site-by-site basis.
  • By the end of 2020, Microsoft will remove the ability to run Adobe Flash in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer across all supported versions of Microsoft Windows. Users will no longer have any ability to enable or run Flash.

Some major web sites still use Flash for viewing video. Even some high-speed Internet service providers’ (broadband) speed test pages still require Flash be enabled. Anyway, all that will change, eh.

Essential iPhone tricks

 Computer, Phone  Comments Off on Essential iPhone tricks
Jun 092017
 

Lots of my clients use iPhones. I always encourage them to go beyond using such an expensive handheld computer as just a phone or camera. This PC World article “10 basic iOS tricks every iPhone owner should know” provides advice on this topic.

… some of iOS’s most useful features are, in fact, the oldest ones. They’re easily overlooked, particularly by new iPhone and iPad users.

Read on for 10 basic iOS features that every iPhone owner should know, like how to take a screenshot, the ability to long-press your way to draft Mail messages, a physical button that doubles as the Camera app’s shutter release, and more.

  • Take a screenshot
  • Unfreeze a frozen iPhone
  • Take a photo with volume buttons
  • Silence the incoming call ringer
  • Type in all-caps
  • Type characters with accent marks
  • Shake to undo
  • Jump directly to your draft Mail messages
  • Create an event directly from a Mail message
  • Put a website shortcut on your home screen

 

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update — notable features

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Jun 092017
 

Have you installed the Windows 10 Creators Update on your PC yet? In my lab, I’ve installed the Creators Update on a variety of Windows 10 PCs, from cheap or midrange to powerful quad core models and from 7 year old to 2016 models.

This PC World article “The 11 most intriguing Fall Creators Update features in Windows 10 Build 16215” covers Microsoft’s ongoing rollout of new features this year for Windows 10.

… Microsoft just revealed a service pack’s worth of additions as part of Windows 10 Build 16215: dictation, predictive typing, a “Find My Pen” mode, full-screen Microsoft Edge, and tons more.

Essentially, Microsoft appears to be bringing some of what’s best about Windows 10 Mobile (which received a few bug fixes) to the Windows 10 desktop, improving the way in which Windows uses pens and camera input, and adding literally dozens of small refinements across the board, including elements of Microsoft’s new Acrylic UI.

Why this matters: Build 16215 points toward a Fall Creators Update that will bring a lot of welcome improvements and flesh out features that have remained minimal so far. Microsoft’s blog post lists dozens of changes, so we’ve picked 11 especially cool features you definitely need to know about.

Read the full article for the highlights of the latest release.

Update June 29, 2017: PC World posted this slideshow of “The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.”

The feature-packed Windows 10 Creators Update hasn’t even hit every PC yet but Microsoft’s already taken the wraps off of its successor.

Microsoft unveiled the uninspiringly named Windows 10 Fall Creators Update during Build 2017, and it will most likely hit Windows 10 PCs (including Windows 10 S devices) this September. Here’s a look at the most noteworthy new goodies you’ll find in the next massive Windows 10 iteration, including a potentially wonderful new feature just revealed by Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16232.

Ransomware protection — tips

 Computer  Comments Off on Ransomware protection — tips
May 302017
 

Ransomware has been much in the news since the WannaCry attack on May 12, 2017.

The WannaCry ransomware attack was a worldwide cyberattack by the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm, which targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The attack started on Friday, 12 May 2017, and within a day was reported to have infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. Parts of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), Spain’s Telefónica, FedEx and Deutsche Bahn were hit, along with many other countries and companies worldwide.

Best practices to guard against such attacks apply to both personal and business computers. In particular, that you keep the Microsoft Windows operating system up-to-date (Windows Update). Also, as mentioned previously, many of these attacks start with hacking your “head” rather than your hardware — your PC — via targeted phishing email messages.

This Malwarebytes Labs blog “How to protect your business from ransomware” post has a useful summary infographic on this topic. The Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (PDF) version is included below.

mwb_blog_ransomware-infographic

Beware tech support screen — fake ad

 Computer  Comments Off on Beware tech support screen — fake ad
May 122017
 

Today’s Cnet article “Government cracks down on tech support scam” reminded me that I had a few reports of this scam last month.

The Federal Trade Commission, along with federal, state and international law enforcement agencies, said on Friday they caught several scam artists who bilked money out of victims through a tech support scheme.

The scam worked like this: An advertisement designed to look like a security alert would pop up on your computer [while browsing the Internet] to warn of a virus or malware, directing the user to call a toll-free number. Some of the messages even included a countdown clock.

Once the person called the number, they were connected to telemarketers claiming to work with well-known companies like Apple or Microsoft. These telemarketers would ask for remote access to the computer and discover a large number of problems (that weren’t really there). They would ultimately charge the user hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.

The article contains an image of the window that appears in your browser. One client believed the screen, panicked, called the number, and let the scammers take remote control of her PC (to show all the supposed problems); then realized the scam when an odd form of payment was demanded (iTunes gift cards). Another client called the number and realized the scam after a brief Q&A about who they were. Another client was about to call the number but called me first. Just another telemarketing scam — whether on the phone or computer screen.

Caller ID spoofing — electric company warning

 Computer, General, News  Comments Off on Caller ID spoofing — electric company warning
May 072017
 

I’ve written about this before: whether it’s at your front door or on your phone or on your computer, scammers use the same tricks. In this case, spoofing their identity. Southern California Edison send out this email notice last week.

***

Subject: Important message from SCE: Beware of caller ID spoofing

That ‘Southern California Edison’ phone call may not be legitimate.

For your security, never give out your personal information, such as your SCE account number, Social Security number, credit card information or PIN number.

We have recently experienced an increase in reports of caller ID spoofing, a practice in which special phone equipment falsifies information on your caller ID display. Calls may appear to be from SCE, when in reality the caller has no association with SCE and may try to sell you products, collect personal information or say your electric bill is past due when it’s not.

Common red flag warnings related to spoofed phone calls:

  • Calls were made multiple times per day
  • Callers asked about customer’s usage, meter or other personal information
  • Customers were provided recommendations for purchasing alternative energy products

Tips to help protect yourself from caller ID spoofing scammers:

  • SCE will not send solar representatives to your home, nor do we have solar companies contact anyone by phone.
  • SCE will never ask for credit card information, a prepaid card such as Green Dot or electric usage information over the phone.
  • Do not use a call back number provided until you confirm it is an SCE number listed on your bill or the Contact Us page on sce.com.

Please know that we take your privacy seriously and make every effort to protect your information. For additional red flag warnings and tips to protect yourself, please visit sce.com/scamalert.

If you believe you are the recipient of a spoofing call, contact SCE Information Governance at csinfogov@sce.com.

Sincerely,

Marc Ulrich
Vice President of Customer Programs & Services
Southern California Edison

***

We all need to be careful. The fact that these scams continue to occur is a sign that they work. Caller ID is not perfect but still can be useful.

Windows 10 data collection — privacy matters

 Computer  Comments Off on Windows 10 data collection — privacy matters
Apr 062017
 

Checking and tuning your Windows 10 settings is highly recommended. I typically do this when helping clients upgrade to Windows 10 or set up a new PC. Windows 10 moved many settings from control panels to the Settings app. There’re lots of privacy settings, as I’ve mentioned previously.

I follow news about how companies collect data from PCs and other devices. This includes Internet Service Providers as well. And the growing list of intelligent personal (digital) assistants (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Home) — so-called intelligent assistance has a price, eh.1  Typical Privacy Policies offer few options for controlling what data is collected and how that is shared. Few opportunities to opt-out. You need to agree or you can’t use the product or service. But sometimes you can limit how data is shared; so, reviewing those options usually is recommended.2

As a result, PC World’s recent article “Microsoft finally reveals what data Windows 10 collects from your PC” is noteworthy.

There are all kinds of new features in the Windows 10 Creators Update rolling out on April 11, but one change really sticks out. Greater transparency about the data that Microsoft collects from your PC.

All too often manufacturers and service providers intone that collecting diagnostic (or quality-of-service) data helps improve their products and services. Some of this appears reasonable. Some remains mysterious. And occasionally there are stories about excessive or inappropriate data collection (e.g., regarding some children’s Internet-connected toys). Or how such data may be stored essentially forever. And security of that data.

Microsoft published two Technet pages describing the data Microsoft collects from users on the Creators Update. There are two levels of diagnostic data: basic3 and full4. The information is quite detailed and we won’t get into it here, but if you’re interested, you can find all the nitty-gritty details in those links. Note that while the Basic listing reveals all, the Full listing is a summary of the kinds of data that setting collects.

Even the basic level can gather quite a bit of info from your PC, though in a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson pledges that “we only collect data at the Basic level that is necessary to keep your Windows 10 device secure and up to date.” Microsoft still offers no native way to turn off Windows 10’s diagnostic collection completely.

At least in the latest Windows 10 Update Microsoft consolidated privacy settings better.

Instead of a string of screens when you first install the new version of Windows 10, Microsoft is putting all the key privacy settings on one screen. The dashboard you’ll see depends on whether you’re already running Windows 10 on your machine or setting up a new PC for the first time.

 

Notes

  1. I am more concerned about data collection by major corporations and the many app/service providers than by the government.
  2. As well as being aware of how you voluntarily provide data when using any Internet-connected device, or even your landline or cell phone. The recent repeal of the FCC’s Internet privacy rule is concerning: “The Obama-backed rules — which would have taken effect later this year — would have banned Internet providers from collecting, storing, sharing and selling certain types of customer information without those customers’ consent. Data such as a person’s Web browsing history, app usage history and location details would have required a customer’s explicit permission before companies such as Verizon and Comcast could mine the information for advertising purposes.”
  3. “The Basic level gathers a limited set of information that is critical for understanding the device and its configuration including: basic device information, quality-related information, app compatibility, and Windows Store. When the level is set to Basic, it also includes the Security level information.” [Detailed list follows on that page.]
  4. Full telemetry level (inclusive of data collected at Basic):
    • Common Data (diagnostic header information)
    • Device, Connectivity, and Configuration data
    • Product and Service Usage data
    • Product and Service Performance data
    • Software Setup and Inventory data
    • Content Consumption data
    • Browsing, Search and Query data
    • Inking, Typing, and Speech Utterance data
    • Licensing and Purchase data
Mar 302017
 

So, congrats if your PC is running Windows 10. Whether you are interested or not in Windows 10 releases, ready or not, here comes the next edition: Windows 10 Creators Update, which will start rolling out (over a period of weeks or months) to the general public on April 11. Most of us will see this release as part of the normal Windows Update process, just like the monthly updates. Is it a good idea to stay up-to-date? Yes. Will you benefit from new features? Maybe not. Will there be fixes to glitches and bugs and security updates? Probably, but the main news out this week’s about what’s changed. Here’re some links to PC World articles and videos.

Windows 10 Creators Update FAQ: Everything you need to know

More than five months after its grand unveiling last October, the Windows 10 Creators Update is finally here—and the wait was worth it.

Following in the footsteps of last August’s sweeping Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Creators Update tweaks and tunes the core Windows 10 experience while heaping on a pile of handy all-new features. While PCWorld’s comprehensive Windows 10 Creators Update review contains detailed impressions of Microsoft’s refreshed operating system, here’s a higher-level look at what you need to know about the Creators Update.

The Windows 10 Creators Update’s best new features: Privacy tweaks, Paint 3D, and more

  • Privacy dashboard
  • Gaming boosts
  • Paint 3D
  • Windows VR
  • Much-needed Windows Update improvements
  • Dynamic Lock
  • Cortana monthly reminders
  • E-books!
  • Edge tab preview bar (and other Edge improvements)
  • Windows Defender overhaul

Missing pieces: What Microsoft failed to deliver in the Windows 10 Creators Update

If the Windows 10 Creators Update had worked out as Microsoft had promised, we all would be taking 3D selfies, importing them to Windows, and then sharing them among our closest friends and coworkers via Office presentations and mixed-reality headsets.

Windows 10 Creators Update: The 5 biggest changes

Microsoft just announced that the Windows 10 Creators Update will start rolling out on April 11, building upon the foundation laid by vanilla Windows 10 and its subsequent “November” and “Anniversary” updates. While not every feature that Microsoft promised at the Creators Update’s reveal last fall actually made the final cut, it’s still overflowing with helpful new extras that polish rough edges and just plain make things more fun.

Windows 10 Creators Update will take months to roll out, Microsoft confirms

Users waiting for Windows 10’s Creators Update, which is expected to release soon, may need to be patient. Data released Wednesday by AdDuplex suggests that Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update took months to roll out to users after it was released last August, and the same pace could apply to the Creators Update.

May 15, 2017 update: Screenshots.

W10 Screenshot

When you’re ready for Creators Update

W10 Screenshot

Then wait for notification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 17, 2017 update: Screenshot

Page screenshot

If you don’t want to wait, and use the Update Assistant to install the Creators Update

Adware vs ad fraud like fake news

 Computer  Comments Off on Adware vs ad fraud like fake news
Mar 272017
 

Last night 60 Minutes did a piece on fake news —  “What’s ‘fake news’? 60 Minutes producers investigate.” An example was shown of “bots” being used to inflate the popularity of an online comment or posting on social media. Well, the same trick is used by criminals for ads, as noted in this Malwarebytes blog article.

Adware: any software application that shows advertisements while one of the components of the adware is running. The word is a contraction of advertising and software and often just regarded as “advertising-supported free-ware.”

Ad fraud: a type of fraud that lets advertisers pay for advertisements even though the number of impressions (the times that the advertisement has been seen) is enormously exaggerated.

Read the article for more details.

 

Windows Vista end of life

 Computer  Comments Off on Windows Vista end of life
Mar 142017
 

You knew the day was coming, correct? This PC World article “Windows Vista has just 30 days to live” is a reminder that if your old PC’s still running Windows Vista, you’ll be facing a decision soon.

In a month’s time, Microsoft will put Windows Vista to rest once and for all. If you’re one of the few people still using it, you have just a few weeks to find another option before time runs out.

After April 11, 2017, Microsoft will no longer support Windows Vista: no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates, Microsoft says. (Mainstream Vista support expired in 2012.) Like it did for Windows XP, Microsoft has moved on to better things after a decade of supporting Vista.

As Microsoft notes, however, running an older operating system means taking risks—and those risks will become far worse after the deadline. Vista’s Internet Explorer 9 has long since expired, and the lack of any further updates means that any existing vulnerabilities will never be patched—ever. Even if you have Microsoft’s Security Essentials installed—Vista’s own antivirus program—you’ll only receive new signatures for a limited time.

Typically this means that it’s time for a new computer. I’ve helped a few clients make this transition. It’s a major change. Time to maybe even rethink whether you want another PC. Maybe something simpler or with less worries? An Apple Mac, iPad, Chromebook? What can’t you do on your smartphone?

A friend just recently finally replaced his old Vista notebook PC with a new Windows 10 notebook PC. Like night and day. Another friend introduced me to a woman who moved into a condo unit. She found an old Vista PC sitting in the vacated unit, left there by the previous owner. She wanted to upgrade it to Windows 10 and use it for a few things. I said to dispose of it (as hazardous electronic waste). She uses a Chromebook.

Rankings of antivirus software 2016

 Computer  Comments Off on Rankings of antivirus software 2016
Feb 082017
 

As in past years, independent antivirus testing houses have published lists of the best antivirus products for 2016. PC World summarized these results in their recent article “The best consumer antivirus products of 2016 are Avira and Norton, test labs say.”

AV-Comparatives released its best antimalware product of 2016 on Tuesday, after AV-Test announced its choice last week. There was the usual dash of controversy, however, as Symantec again declined to submit its Norton product to AV-Comparatives for testing. Otherwise, the winners were clear: AV-Test anointed Norton Security 2016 as providing the best Protection of all consumer antimalware products it tested during 2016. AV-Comparatives named Avira Antivirus Pro 2016 as its best antimalware product of 2016, narrowly edging out Bitdefender and Kaspersky.

See the full article for comparison tables by the two test labs. Or, view/download the complete reports at:

https://www.av-comparatives.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/avc_sum_201612_en.pdf

https://www.av-test.org/en/antivirus/home-windows/