Archive for Microsoft

Should I Update To Windows 10 Version 1909?

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2019 by itnerd

Windows 10 feature updates tend to be a bit of a risk to update. The last few feature updates have been gong shows with serious issues that impact users. So it would be understandable if you’re gunshy about upgrading to Windows 10 version 1909. You can read what comes to the table in this feature update here. But I’ll cut right to the chase. Unlike most feature updates which overhaul the operating system, the majority of version 1909’s changes are to how the OS lets users manage their system and app notifications. In other words, these are cosmetic fixes. That means it should be low risk to upgrade.

In my case, I upgraded all my Windows 10 computers to version 1909 quickly and without an issue. And when I say quickly, I mean it updated in under 10 minutes which is unusual for a feature update. That’s a stark change from the last few feature updates which would “brick” at least one of my computers. The other thing that I note is that for the first time in about two years, a Windows 10 feature update hasn’t caused my phone to ring off the hook from clients who had an install of a feature update go south.

That all suggests to me that this feature update is safe to update to. The only thing that I would recommend is what I always recommend. Which is to back up your data before trying to install it. Even though this is a low risk feature update, there’s still risk involved. Which means that it is better to be safe rather than sorry.

Windows 10 Requires A Microsoft Account To Install…. Here’s How You Get Around This

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 25, 2019 by itnerd

Something that Microsoft has done recently that is in my mind a real step backwards is that when you set up a new Windows 10 computer, you need a Microsoft Account to set it up. And there appears to be no way around that via setting up a local account which used to be an option in the Windows 10 setup process. But that option has appeared to have disappeared in the setup process that you are presented with at present.

But there actually is a way to work around this. Actually three of them which are really simple:

  • Option 1: Start the setup process WITHOUT a network connection. This will force the Windows 10 setup process to present you with the option to create a local account and skip the requirement for a Microsoft Account.
  • Option 2: If you started the setup process with a network connection and are presented with the prompt to enter or create a Microsoft Account, hit the back arrow at the top left of the screen to go back to the previous screen and disconnect from your network by either turning off WiFi or disconnecting your Ethernet cable. Then click next on the bottom right corner and you should be presented with the option to create a local account. 
  • Option 3: If you started the setup process with a network connection and are presented with the prompt to enter or create a Microsoft Account, disconnect from your network by either turning off WiFi or disconnecting your Ethernet cable. Then try creating a Microsoft account and you’ll see a “Something went wrong” error message. You can then click “Skip” to skip the Microsoft account creation process.

This requirement to have a Microsoft Account just to install an operating system is another data point in a pattern of behavior from Microsoft where choice is being taken away and being replaced by “do it our way or it’s the highway.” That’s very troubling and Microsoft would be well advised to reconsider this as people want choice. At least in this case, there are ways around what Microsoft would like you to do.

So…. What Did Microsoft Announce Today At The Surface Event?

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 2, 2019 by itnerd

Microsoft had a media event in New York today and the company announced a ton of new Surface related hardware. Here’s the highlights:

  • Microsoft announced the Surface Pro X. It has a 13″ screen with a resolution of 2880 x 1920 at 267 PPI with a 1400:1 contrast ratio. The unit weighs 1.68 pounds, has USB-C and constant LTE connectivity.” It has a pen that lives in the cover/keyboard and uses a custom Qualcomm processor called the Microsoft SQ1 and runs “full Windows 10.” Additionally, the Pro X has a removable solid-state drive.
  • Microsoft is taking dead aim at the MacBook Pro with the Surface Laptop 3. It comes in 13″ and 15″ sizes. The former uses the Intel 10th-gen “Ice Lake” quad-core processor which Microsoft claims that makes it faster than the MacBook Air. The 15″ uses an AMD Ryzen processor that is custom made for Microsoft. The trackpads are supposed to be spacious and the keyboard is designed to have travel and be silent. Something that isn’t the case with the MacBook Pro at the moment. Something else that the MacBook Pro can’t touch is the fact that these laptops are modular and repairable which should make a whole lot of people happy.  Preorders are open now from the online Microsoft Store, Expect to pay $999 USD and $1,199 USD for the 13-inch and 15-inch models respectively, with Microsoft shipping them on October 22.
  • Up next is the The Surface Pro 7 retains the same size as the previous model. Microsoft has kept the Surface Connector for power, but has replaced the mini DisplayPort with a USB-C port because USB-C is what all the cool kids use in their devices. The Surface Pro 7 will ship on October 22, and will start at $749 USD.
  • Microsoft has joined Samsung, Amazon and others in coming out with an Apple AirPods killer. The Surface Buds have a charge case with 24 hours or so of charge. But of more interest, they have Spotify integration, and each earbud has a disc-like exterior that provides a huge looking flat surface for users to tap on and interact with. The company showed off being able to swipe through a Power Point presentation using them. Expect to pay $249 USD for a pair this holiday season.
  • Microsoft has a new flavor of Windows 10 called Windows 10 X. designed for dual-screen PCs. Windows 10X will power dual-screen PCs from Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and of course Microsoft.
  • Coming for the holiday season next year is the Surface Neo foldable tablet. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Neo is a foldable tablet that has a 360 degree hinge that separates two 9″ displays. It also runs Windows 10 X. The Neo features a keyboard that seems to magnetically attach to the foldable tablet, as well as a Surface Pen that attaches to its rear. Both of which I am sure are “borrowed” the iPad.
  • Microsoft also announced the Surface Duo which is a folding smartphone that uses two 5.6-inch displays that are connected by a hinge. Google, yes that Google is working with Microsoft on the device to make it work with Android apps. Beyond that, there wasn’t a whole lot else that was shared. This too will ship next year in time for the holidays.

In case you missed the event or you want more details, I can help you with that:

Buggy Windows 10 Updates Presents Users With Multiple Issues…. WTF Microsoft?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 9, 2019 by itnerd

Windows 10 is a dog’s breakfast at the moment. And the best example of this is latest cumulative update that brings users a laundry list of issues. I’m specifically talking about Cumulative Update KB4512941 for Windows 10 May 2019 Update (1903) which is plagued with issues related to high CPU usage and crippled search functionality.

Now reports of a new bug are filtering in, with users reporting that their screenshots all have an orange tint, no matter which method or app they use to take them. That’s right. Orange screen shots. You’d think this would be caught in QA. But as we all know, Microsoft QA isn’t what it used to be. Now the issue appears to be related to older video drivers, as updating drivers (or uninstalling KB4512941) appears to fix this problem. But a lot of people, gamers or graphic designers for example don’t want to update video drivers as there is always a chance that by doing so, it will break something and they will have difficulty rolling back. Thus simply updating the drivers may be a non-starter for some.

You have to wonder at what point will Microsoft prove that they are serious about putting out a quality product by having updates that reflect those efforts? Because the current state of play is frankly a joke where users aren’t laughing about it.

Microsoft Contractors Are STILL Listening To Cortana Requests And Skype Calls…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 15, 2019 by itnerd

You might recall that Microsoft was one of a number of companies who were using humans to listen in on requests to their respective voice assistants. Which of course has now become a major story in the world of tech as it’s seen as a privacy invasion. Microsoft didn’t really back down from this. Though I suggested that they should.

Motherboard is now reporting that Microsoft is still doing this with Cortana requests and Skype calls. And since there’s no opt out (though you can delete existing recordings), your choices are to either live with this, or turn off Cortana (I have done so on my Windows 10 computers) and stop using Skype (I’ve cut back on using Skype but I cannot ditch it completely). Seeing as the other companies in this mess have pledged to make changes now or in the very near future, it perplexes me why Microsoft would decide that this is worth fighting for. If I were them, I’d be altering course as at the moment, they are on an island all by themselves and the optics don’t look good.

Microsoft Contractors Listen To Some Skype Calls And Cortana Interactions

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 8, 2019 by itnerd

Microsoft has a bit of an issue on its hands in a similar fashion as Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Motherboard has found that Microsoft contractors have been listening into Skype calls only if users are performing a translation function in Skype and not during any other typical Skype voice or video call. As a result, they’ve listened in on intimate conversations between couples and more. And to add to that, Microsoft contractors listen to voice commands spoken to Cortana too. Now Microsoft, much like Apple says right up front that it analyzes audio of translated calls in Skype to improve its services, but it does not mention that some of the analysis will be done by humans. I guess Microsoft assumes that you’ll figure that out on your own. But a better strategy would be for Microsoft to spell that out so that there is no ambiguity.

Having said that, You should also consider what this contractor said to Motherboard:

“The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data,” a Microsoft contractor who provided the cache of files to Motherboard, said. 

The contractor said, “I generally feel like that while we do not have access to user identifiable information, that if Microsoft users were aware that random people sitting at home in their pajamas who could be joking online with friends about the stuff they just heard that they wouldn’t like that.”

Yeah. This is a bit of an #EpicFail. Now Microsoft says in short that it’s doing nothing wrong and this is all spelled out for you so that you know that this is going on, but this really doesn’t feel right. I say that because Amazon, Apple, and Google decided to take a sober second look at how they do things when this issue was brought to their attention. Microsoft at present doesn’t seem to be heading in a similar direction. Perhaps they want to reconsider that for no other reason than to avoid being sued like Apple.


Windows 10 Version 1903 Update Is Disabling GPUs On Some Surface Book Devices… Among Other Issues

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 16, 2019 by itnerd

Remember when I said that you should likely wait for a bit before installing the latest Windows 10 feature update? Here’s an example why I put out that advice. Microsoft has had to admit on a list that has all the known issues with Windows 10 version 1903 that this update can make the dGPU on Surface Book devices to disappear which forces the Surface Book to run with the slower and less capable integrated graphics.

Now the list that I linked to above is pretty long, which is not at all encouraging if you were thinking of upgrading. Which based on that list alone, is a hell no. Combine that with Microsoft’s recent reputation for putting out feature updates that break your system, and the conclusion is clear. Avoid this update for as long as you can.