Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Windows 10 USB Selective Suspend

Recently I lost hours of my life due to an odd USB setting in Windows 10.  If you are experiencing or have experienced issues with USB devices and Windows 10 then hopefully you can keep reading and save yourself the hours of frustration and rage inducing failures that I’ve been dealing with since first starting to use Windows 10.

First a bit of background, USB Selective Suspend is not new.  It has been around since USB 2.0 in Windows XP.  Selective Suspend allows the operating system to save power by placing specific USB ports into a suspended mode to save power, similar to how a laptop or tablet can be placed into sleep mode.  What’s cool about it is that it can do USB ports individually without powering down all the USB ports or the entire USB bus.

What’s bad about it is that it really isn’t necessary on a desktop machine that is plugged into power. Powering down USB ports won’t save the grid that much power on a desktop.  Now on a laptop or tablet on battery power it’s a different story.  That’s why Windows allows you to enable or disable USB Selective Suspend based on the computer being plugged in or on battery power.

Another interesting fact here is that previous versions of Windows allows you access to the USB Selective Suspend setting easily in the advanced power profile settings.  Windows 10 hides that setting unless you modify the registry.

One more gotcha here, the driver for the USB device must support Selective Suspend in order for it to work properly.  This has been around since Windows XP and USB 2.0 so you’d think that it is widely supported.  Well…...cue the rage inducing failures.

I started using Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 2 using a Toshiba USB 3.0 dock to connect to my keyboard, mouse, and dual monitors.  I had no issues.  Then I got my Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Dock and things started to go south in a hurry.  The biggest issue I faced was that my display port monitors would go to sleep and rarely wake up when connected to the dock.  Randomly they would come back on but most of the time in order to use my monitors connected to the Surface Dock I’d have to unplug the Surface Dock Connector from my Surface and then plug it in again.

After spending weeks trying to figure out why the monitors wouldn’t wake up I finally broke down and called Microsoft support.  They told me it was probably a hardware issue with the Surface Dock so they sent me another one.  I hooked the new one up and the same problem.  I had a hunch all along it was either a firmware issue with the Surface Dock or it was a driver issue on the Surface itself.

Without any solution I continued to unplug my new Surface Dock from my Surface multiple times every day to wake up my monitors.  The convenience of the new Surface Dock with its single connection into the Surface that provides communications and power was totally lost.

A few days before Christmas I decided to update my TomTom GPS with the latest map before we did some traveling for the holiday.  I plugged the GPS into one my Surface Dock USB ports and told it to update but it kept dropping its connection.  It would update for a few seconds and then say it wasn’t connected.  I then plugged the GPS USB cable and plugged it directly into the Surface.  Same problem.  So I unplugged the Surface Dock completely and still the GPS would connect and then drop its connection.

Must be a cable problem, right?  I tried 3 different cables and they all had the same issue.  Was the micro USB port on my GPS bad?  Seemed unlikely but I checked it out.  After another hour of testing and messing with it I still had no luck and by this point my GPS map was totally hosed because of the constant connecting and reconnecting.

Time to take a step back and relax.  Sometimes when troubleshooting an issue, you can lose the forest for the tress so I decided it best to take a break.  I did a few other things, took a shower, and then came back to start again.  This time I started researching USB connection issues with my GPS and Windows 10.  After about an hour of reading it appeared based on some user forums that Selective Suspend was to blame because the TomTom MyDrive software and GPS driver were not configured to support Selective Suspend in Windows 10.

That made sense.  Windows 10 kept trying to enable Selective Suspend on the port and that caused the connection to drop because the TomTom driver wasn’t updated to let Windows 10 know it could not enabled suspend on the port while the GPS was connected and trying to update a 6gb map.

To test this, I went to disable Selective Suspend in the advanced power profile settings but found the USB Settings option missing.  Really?  A quick Google revealed that in order to see the advanced power options you had to modify a registry entry.  Part of me understands why Microsoft would hide this, part of me doesn’t.  You can find plenty of articles online with detailed in instructions for how to change a reg key so you can see these settings.  I changed the key, rebooted and sure enough the USB Selective Suspend settings appeared.

The options are enable and disabled for plugged in and on battery.  I disabled mine while plugged in but left it turned on while on battery.  Rarely would I every attempt to update my GPS while on battery power and if it does save me some juice to make my battery life last longer then fine.

Immediately my GPS connected and updated as it should.  My rendered useless GPS became useful once again.  While I took the long way around the barn was I grateful that the issue was fixed.  So I connected my Surface to the dock again and went to bed.

The next morning, I got up expecting to have to unplug my Surface Dock from my Surface to get my monitors to wake up but found that when I moved the mouse the monitors woke right up.  Intrigued I let the monitors go back to sleep again and they again woke up as they should.  Fascinating.  I finished what I was doing and left for the day.  When I got back later that night my monitors again woke up when I moved the mouse or touched the keyboard.  Could it be?  Could the Selective Suspend issue have caused my Surface Dock to not work properly?

While I didn’t find any articles saying that there was a connection for the new Surface Dock, remember it has only been out for just over a month, I found many related to docks using USB.  Since the new Surface Dock doesn’t use USB I didn’t think the issues would be connected but my experience suggests that they are, even if the evidence is circumstantial.

It baffles me that Microsoft’s own hardware isn’t compatible with Selective Suspend.  Why TomTom hasn’t kept their driver current is also a bit of a surprise but Windows 10 is still relatively new.  I don’t see any excuse for Microsoft.

For now, at least it appears that my Surface Dock works as it should and my GPS can be updated anytime I want.  If you are having similar struggles with a dock or USB device, you might want to check out the power saving convenience that is USB Selective Suspend.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Windows 10 November Update

Microsoft has released the first major update to Windows 10.  In the good old day of previous Windows versions this would have been called a Service Pack but under the new Windows 10 paradigm this is just an update to the continual evolution of Windows.

There are a lot of changes to Windows in this update, many of them are under-the-hood improvements to how the operating system works.  One is that boot times are 30% faster.  My testing has revealed this to be true.  This update has also helped Windows 10 mature for mass deployments.  The business case for upgrading large organizations to Windows 10 continues to grow stronger as these updates are released.

Here are some of the top feature additions and changes you need to be aware of.

For mobile users Windows finally has the native ability to track your laptop or tablet.  This feature relies on the users Microsoft account.  When enabled the device will phone home with its current location allowing you to track the device if it is lost or stolen.  Other operating systems have had this for years and it is good that it has finally come to Windows – especially when you consider how many Windows based devices are mobile.

Another interesting feature is that Windows 10 will now automatically set your default printer to be the last printer you printed to.  This feature is enabled by default once you install the November Update.  I disabled this feature on my work computer as I often print to different printers but don’t want each of those printers to become my default.  This feature has its place but I’m not sure why it is enabled by default when you update.

Windows 10 also adds the ability to automatically set your time zone based on your location.  This may be handy for laptop and tablet users that travel a lot but isn’t very useful for desktop users.  Auto time zones is set to on by default – I’m not sure why.  Does this indicate that Microsoft thinks the majority of Windows 10 users are mobile?  Regardless this did not work well on my desktop.

I live in the part of Indiana that up until 2007 did not observe Daylight Saving Time.  Since the auto time zone setting is turned on by default my desktop set my time zone to Indiana East.  Indiana East was the old time zone we used before 2007 as it did not observe DST and left our computers on Eastern time year round.  Now that we observe DST our time zone setting is Eastern but the auto time zone didn’t get that right.  For desktop users is it probably best to turn auto time zone off to avoid a potential calendar nightmare.  (Getting rid of Daylight Saving Time all together is another way to solve this issue but that’s a different topic for a different time.)

Microsoft Edge also receives several additional features. While still not supporting extensions the new browser in Windows 10 now syncs favorites and reading lists through the users Microsoft account.  Edge can now import favorites from other browsers and then keep them in sync across all machines the user logs in to.

Several visual improvements are also included in the November Update.  The right click contexts menus on the Start Menu are much easier to read and navigate.  The Start Menu itself can also handle more shortcuts and now allows for additional shortcuts to be arranged into each section.  Windows also now applies the default windows color to the title bars making windows easier to see.

The Start Menu also gains the ability to show advertisements.  This is turned on by default but can easily be turned off – which I recommend.  I’m not really concerned that Microsoft is starting to insert ads into Windows 10 – so long as the users always have the ability to turn them off.

One feature that is still lacking is the ability to customize the login screen.  The November Update allows you to set a solid background color for the login screen but does not allow you to set a custom image.  There are hacks available for doing this online but hopefully the next Windows 10 update will allow for full login screen customization.

The upgrade process was simple enough but varies based on whether or not your machine is part of a domain.  For a non-domain joined machine the upgrade was seamless.  The November Update appeared in Windows Update on the Surface Pro 2 I tested and the update process took around 15 minutes.  When it was done Windows worked as it did before without any issues relating to the update.

On a domain joined machine I did not have as much luck.  Domain joined machines will not receive the update via Windows Update.  To update a domain machine you have to download and install the November Update ISO from Microsoft.  On the desktop machine I tested the upgrade process took over an hour.  This could have been due in part to the desktop machine not having solid start hard drives.

Once the update completed there were several issues to fix.  Several of my default programs had been changed.  PDF files were changed from Acrobat to Edge and the file associations for OneNote were gone.  These were easy to fix but I’m not sure why this only happened on the domain joined machine.

In addition, all of the server admin tools I had installed were wiped out.  Active Directory Management and Group Policy Administration still had shortcuts but the applications were gone.  I had to download and reinstall the Server Administration Toolkit from Microsoft to get them back.

Despite these issues the Windows 10 November Update is a step in the right direction.  If Microsoft, or any software developer waited until their software was perfect to release it then we wouldn’t have any software at all.  Fortunately, Microsoft is keeping with the new Windows paradigm and continuing to improve Windows 10.

If you are looking to deploy Windows 10 and want to use the latest edition, make sure you download the Windows 10 ISO with the November Update built in.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Technology, Christmas Gifts, and Keeping Kids Safe

My latest article is now live at ministrytech.com.

Christmas is a great time of year for ministries as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It can also be a challenging time for parents as kids Christmas lists are full of the latest high tech gadgets and whatchamacallits so they can visit websites you’ve never heard of.  Here are some tips for parents to help keep children safe on Christmas Day and every day.

I am very pro technology but like most things in life you have to earn the privilege to use it and then continue to use it responsibly.  For example, when you learn to drive you don’t get behind the wheel of a race car at Indianapolis right away.  That isn’t saying that race cars in Indy are bad but that you have to earn it and work hard to use it properly.

In the real world we have curfews, why not in the virtual world?  Parents should set boundaries on their kids use of technology and devices.  I don’t agree with the notion that as parents we should let our kids fail first and then pick them up and help them along and allow them to continue making bad decisions so that they can “learn”.  That is how many kids end up viewing porn or participating in online activities that are not appropriate – often times long before mom and dad are aware.  And by the time mom and dad become aware it is too late. (Prov. 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4)

It is also important to encourage Godly relationships.  Positive peer influence is critical as over 80% of kids ages 7-10 years old view pornography online at the encouragement of a friend.  Do your kid’s friends model a Godly example and help them live a life that strives to become more like Christ?  Those peer influences in the physical world also impact actions in the virtual world.

Proverbs has a few things to say about this.  Proverbs 27:17 talks about iron sharpening iron.  Remember that this iron sharpening can happen virtually as well.  Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  What did it say?  Too many friends can be a bad thing?  Seem to fly in the face of the goal of having as many online friends and connections as possible.

As a parent I expect obedience.  The Bible is pretty clear about the whole children obeying your parents thing (Eph. 6:1) but often the rules seem looser when it comes to online obedience or obeying mom and dad when they don’t understand the technology.  Internet use, cell phone use, tablet use, video console use, etc. is not a right.  It’s a privilege that is earned through responsibility.  It is not an inalienable right.  After all, who is paying for it?

Removing the technology should always be an option that is on the table when it comes to expecting obedience.  Granted, some technology is required for school but there must still be a way for young people to accomplish their education and then not use their devices for anything else.  If there is a sin issue in their life as a result of the technology then it must be removed, whether that sin is something obvious like pornography or something less obvious like gossip.

The story is told of a traveling salesman back in the good ole days before the internet and cell phones who struggled with pornography on hotel room TVs.  Recognizing this challenge in his life he decided that he would not stay at hotels unless they would physically remove the TV from his room, and if the hotel would not remove the TV from his room then he would stay at a different hotel.

What lengths are you willing to go to in order to help your kids stay pure?  It might not be easy but I believe that if we are going to stand before God and give an account for how we raise our children then how easy or convenient it is shouldn’t matter.  (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:23-24)

Finally, we should provide accountability and set a good example.  How are mom and dad using the latest technology and gadgets?  Who helps hold mom and dad accountable?  What’s better, for mom and dad to learn about the latest technology, gadgets, and social media and teach their children, or for the kids to learn about it from someone else?

A recent study of 13 year olds by CNN found that parental involvement and accountability “effectively erased the negative effects” of their kid’s online interactions, whether through social media, games, chats, etc.  When a secular study says that it seems that, we as Christian parents should take notice and provide accountability.

Here are some accountability suggestions:
  1. Spend time with your children online and learn from them.  Ask them to show you what they like to do online and their favorite sites.  Ask them to teach you how to use the latest gadgets.
  2. Check up on their logs and history, across all devices.
  3. Use other software for filtering and internet tracking.  The goal is not to remove independence but provide accountability to help the children grow and mature spiritually.
  4. Find out about other points of access.  Where else can your kids get online and use other devices?  School?  Friend’s house?
I believe we are all accountable for our actions.  I think we tend to forget what “ALL” means and who it applies to.  We are accountable for our actions both in the real world and in the online world.  We are accountable for our children, and our kids are accountable for themselves before God.  God is still God, even in the virtual world filled with high tech gadgets and toys.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping kids safe and technology, visit http://faithlafayette.org/parenttech.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Will Apple Watch Save Wearable Technology?

I admit that I’m an early adopter for technology.  I like to get the new stuff and play with it right away.  I know that the next version will probably be better, have less bugs, and look cooler but I can’t wait for version 2.  Then I’d feel behind the curve and have to catch up. 

That’s one of the reasons I bought an Apple Watch.  I have been watching wearable technology evolve and while excited by it I was not impressed with what it could do.  I know some corporations are buying the Apple Watch for their executives but I’m curious what impact if any the Apple Watch and wearable tech.

Before the Apple Watch, wearable tech was relegated to health and fitness applications with a secondary focus on telling time.  Have you tried to change the time on some of the fitness-based devices?  It is almost as if they forgot that while being worn on the wrist to monitor your heartbeat it could also double as a watch.

Smart watches have also been around for a while but nothing as integrated as the Apple Watch promised.  Big companies have been working on these devices for years but nothing had really taken off.  There wasn’t an “Ah-ha!” moment where everyone realized that they couldn’t live without a wearable technology device.

I bought my Apple Watch the day they were released but I didn’t order it at midnight, I waited until after I had a try on appointment.  I wanted to touch and feel the bands and compare the sizes of the watch.  While some wearable technology devices are relatively inexpensive and the same price as normal watches the Apple Watch is not.  It is an investment – and an investment with a ton of choices and options.  Not only do you have to decide if wearable tech is right for you but once you do decide you have another round of decisions regarding features, construction, and style.

I’m glad I stopped to try one on.  I was able to pick the band I like and determine the size that worked best for me.  I ended up with a 42mm stainless steel watch with a black sports band.  I picked the 42mm size, as it was comparable to the size watch I was already wearing.  I chose the sports band because of its leather like feel and its multipurpose applications.  It works well if you are working out and very active but it also works well if you want to dress it up.  Granted I would like to have a Milanese loop or even a link band but at Apple’s prices, I figured multi purposing the sports band was a much better use of money.

I admit that I struggled between the aluminum Sport version and the stainless steel Watch version.  Not only is the case made out of different material but the glass surface of the watch is different.  The Sport version uses Ion glass while the Watch version uses the Sapphire glass.  For me the decision was easy, I needed the Sapphire glass.  I’m left handed and I wear my watch on my left wrist.  As such whatever device I wear is prone to a lot of abuse as 99% of what I do is done with my left hand.  The Ion glass is more subject to scratching then the Sapphire glass and I needed as much scratch resistance as possible.  Remember though that the Ion glass is more shatter resistant than the Sapphire glass.  That’s why it is on the Sports version of the watch as you may scratch it up but if you fall down running; your watch should survive whereas the Sapphire glass is more prone to shatter.  For me I needed the scratch resistance over shatter proof so I went with the Watch edition.  Let’s just say I don’t do that much running.  In addition, I like that stainless steel shine vs the dullness of the aluminum Sport watch.

Now that I decided what type of watch to get, I had to order it and wait for it.  It took Apple 5 weeks to deliver my watch.  It is hard to tell if that is because they were selling so many or if that is because they had so few.  No sales numbers have been officially released but my guess is they had too few.

As an early adopter, I’m often asked about my Watch.  The novelty has definitely worn off when people say I’m the first person they’ve seen board an airplane using my watch as my boarding pass, or buy groceries or gas and use my watch to pay.  I’m often asked if others should get one.  That is difficult to answer because wearable tech and the Apple Watch are lacking universal appeal.  The “Ah-ha!” moment I mentioned earlier.

One easy way to tell if you need an Apple Watch is to look at your wrist now.  Go ahead; I’ll wait, look at your wrist.  Are you wearing a watch?  Do you wear a watch?  Do you wear it all the time?  Many times I’m asked if I think someone should buy a watch and when I inquire why they don’t have a watch on they tell me they don’t wear a watch.  The Apple Watch is far too expensive not to wear.  I wear mine all the time but if you don’t like have a watch on or don’t wear one a lot save yourself some money and don’t’ buy an Apple Watch, or any other wearable tech for that matter.

Otherwise, whether or not to buy an Apple Watch really depends on how you live your life.  While the Apple Watch is great for me, I don’t think it is great for everyone, yet.  I’m not sure what corporate America is using it for.  Right now it is just too immature and lacking necessary applications.

For me the Apple Watch could not come soon enough.  I don’t care that much about the health statistics or being able to tell how far I’ve walked in a day or how fast my heart is beating.  I care a lot about having an accurate timepiece – I travel a lot and love how the Apple Watch helps me manage time zones.  I also care about easier connectivity.  I get a ton of texts and other communications.  Getting all of that on my wrist is a huge time saver for me.  I no longer have to pull my iPhone 6 out of my pocket several hundred times a day, now I can just glance at my wrist.

As I mentioned the Apple Watch is great for traveling. Not only does it manage time zones well but I also keep a hand free.  To board the plane now I just scan my watch, keeping one hand free while the other hand pulls my carry-on.  If my flight is delayed or the gate changes I know by looking at my wrist after the Watch taps me without having to dig out my phone.  The Apple Watch functions as an easier to access extension of my iPhone screen.

I also really like the complications.  Complications doesn’t refer to how difficult the watch is to operate but rather is a traditional watchmaker’s term.  Complications refer to the other functions of a watch beyond telling time.  Things like showing you the phases of the moon or the date are watch complications as they complicate the mechanism necessary to tell time.  The Apple Watch provides several great complications that provide data when you glance at the watch.  I had several complications on my previous watch and enjoy having them digitally on my Apple Watch.

Again, this works great for me but it may not be worth the expense for everyone until there is more universal appeal.  Wearable technology in general is still in its infancy.  As it matures, the appeal will become great and the Apple Watch will become more than a heartbeat monitor that is an extension of your iPhone screen.  It will be able to do more and more independently making its appeal boarder.  

The next version of the Apple Watch software, Watch OS 2 was a great improvement but also brought about a few bugs.  Many good things are happening there but I think we are several more hardware and software versions away from the “Ah-ha!” moment where everyone says they need some sort of wearable device to better their everyday life.

For me, the Apple Watch has already become a valuable tool.  Whether or not the Apple Watch or any other wearable technology is a needed and valuable tool for you for now depends on how you live your life.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Upgrading Windows Versions for the Last Time

This has certainly been a momentous occasion as this is the last time we will be upgrading Windows from one version to the next.  From this point forward the updates will come in periodically, no more waiting for a big upgrade install every 2-3 years. I’m very excited about that.

Being such a momentous occasion there are a few things I thought I’d share to help make your upgrade process more momentous.

I’ve upgraded several machines to Windows 10 using several different methods.  Overall, I’m very pleased the last time I have to do this is going to smooth.  Granted, I’ve heard of issues, mostly with driver compatibility, but for the most part Microsoft seems to have gotten this one right – since you know, it’s the last time.

My first upgrade was my Surface Pro 2.  Yes, I still have a 2.  I’m holding out for the Pro 4 that comes with Windows 10.  This upgrade was done via the upgrade notification icon that appeared on the taskbar.  Windows downloaded the necessary files in the background and I just clicked Next a few times and bam, Windows 10.  It took less than 30 minutes and was seamless.  I don’t see any need to wipe out and start over again with a clean install as the in-place upgrade worked perfectly.  I know the purists will say otherwise.

The one thing to note here is to uncheck the box that says you will share your Wi-Fi connection with your contacts.  While the Wi-Fi sharing feature is kinda cool it has been known to disable some network adapters that don’t fully support it so to be safe just turn that off.  You will need to click Customize and not accept the default settings as you click into Windows 10.

My second upgrade as on my desktop at work.  This is a Dell Precision line computer with 2 normal spinning hard drives running in a Raid 1 configuration.  No SSD like with the Surface.  This upgrade was done using the Windows 10 Enterprise ISO downloaded through a VLSC account.  This upgrade was easy as well but it took a lot longer.  The upgrade process itself took an hour and a half followed by 3 hours of 100% disk I/O.  I can only theorize that the traditional hard disks, the RAID configuration, and the fact that my work machine has a lot more apps on it caused the upgrade to take longer.  I found that it was best to just let the disks run at 100% until Windows finished what it was doing as setting anything else up took excessively long.

Once it finished the disk, activity went back to normal and Windows 10 works great.  Another in-place upgrade that saved me a ton of time, as I didn’t have to re-install everything and re-configure everything.  Again, the purists would have done a clean install but I don’t have their kind of time.
In all these upgrades, I haven’t experienced any driver issues or had to manually install any missing drivers.  I also haven’t had any features not function properly requiring me to roll back to Windows 8.1.  I know others have had issues and had to roll back on a variety of different hardware but I don’t have enough data to know what was to blame in those situations.

One setting I did change was the Windows Update setting.  With Windows 10, either you get the updates automatically and Windows just reboots and does it for you or you can set it to prompt you to reboot.  I often leave my machines locked doing various things overnight so I set mine to prompt me.  I did leave it to Automatically Update for a while but found it was closing Outlook and all my apps and rebooting in the middle of the night on its own and I didn’t care for that.

It is great having the same OS on my desktop and my Surface.  I love the new Start Menu and enjoy that many of the features and configs sync between the 2 devices.

It is also exciting know that Windows 10 is a product that is evolving.  Unlike previous version where development stopped until the next version comes out Windows 10 is already showing its flexibility as the OS is updated with new things all the time.  This is Windows as it should be.  I also like that they are still accepting feedback via a built in app in the OS.  Anytime I stumble across something I don’t like I check to see if anyone else has already submitted the issue and if not I submit the suggestion.  I find I’m often late to the submission party, as so far all of my ideas have already been submitted by people much smarter than me.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is Windows 10 Really Free?

My latest article is now live at ministrytech.com.

Microsoft made headlines when they announced that Windows 10 would be a free upgrade to all users of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1.  They even said that pirated and unlicensed versions would also be eligible for the free upgrade.  Really?  While it is an ambitious goal to get the world to upgrade to Windows 10 how is it that it can be free to everyone, even those running the software illegally?  Granted many other operating systems are free but this is Microsoft.  Is this one of those situations where if it sounds too good to be true it probably is?

In a word, yes.  Microsoft has several times had to clarify what they actually meant.  In other words, they didn’t mention all the catches to the announcement that Windows 10 would be a free upgrade to all users of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1.  Knowing the complexity of Microsoft licensing, including educational and charity options, I was surprised that Microsoft would make the upgrade process harder by not clearly communicating how you get the free upgrade.

So how do you get your free upgrade if you are running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1?  In order to answer that we have to know how you got the copy of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 you are running now.  Let’s start with an easy one.  You bought a computer from a big box store or online and it came with a copy of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 on it and you activated that.  Congratulation!  You quality for the free upgrade and you should have already received a notice via Windows Update that your computer is ready to upgrade on or after July 29.  Microsoft got this one right.  Pushing Windows 10 out via Windows Update and notifying users in advance is brilliant and the way it should be done.  It also shows the future as Windows 10 is the final version of Windows and will be further updated via Windows Update.

But what if you are running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 and you didn’t get the update notification from Windows Update?  This is where things get complicated.  There can be several reasons for this.  One is that your copy of Windows is non-genuine.  That means the activation code you used to activate Windows is no longer valid or was never valid.  Microsoft said originally that all non-genuine copies would be upgraded but later clarified that only certain types of non-genuine software would be upgraded.  You can avoid this issue completely if you make sure your copy of Windows is genuine and running with a valid, genuine, single-use activation key.

Another reason you may not have received the update notification is if you are running Windows under a licensing agreement.  Microsoft has numerous licensing agreements for school, charities, and enterprises that are essentially software leasing programs.  This allows the organization to lease the software as opposed to purchasing each installation individually.  For organizations with hundreds of computers, this can save a lot of money over an operating system’s life cycle.  Leased software will not automatically upgrade but rather must be upgraded when the organization renews their lease.  Since the organization doesn’t actually own the software, it won’t upgrade unless the lease is kept current.

As opposed to a computer you purchased at home, you own the software outright and qualify for the free upgrade because you paid full price for Windows with your computer hardware purchase.  An organization leasing Windows didn’t do that and as such must pay for another lease term before they can upgrade.  For an organization on some sort of agreement, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  It isn’t as if the organization is not going to renew their Windows lease when it comes up.  It just means they will have to push out the upgrade to Windows 10, as users using leased software won’t receive an upgrade notification.

Organizations using this type of licensing will receive a new activation key to use when upgrading and activating Windows 10.  This gives organizations control over the upgrade process and avoids an IT nightmare of users upgrading their computers on their own and potentially breaking links to applications within the organization.

Admittedly Microsoft licensing isn’t’ all that clear to begin with and Microsoft didn’t do themselves any favors with the way they announced and then continued to re-explain that Windows 10 was free for everyone.  If you are an individual user using Windows, on a computer you bought and activated then you should have received your upgrade announcement by now.  If you didn’t, then check to see what kind of Windows activation key you have.  If you are a user on a machine with a copy of Windows that is owned by an organization then check with your organization’s IT department to see if you can upgrade.  The sooner you start checking the better.  Windows 10 will be worth it. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

What Happened to my Blog?

Ministry Tech MagazineI’ve been asked recently why I haven’t been posting anything on my blog.  I was specifically asked why my blog has been silent in regards to Windows 10, apparently I wrote a lot about Windows 8.

Well fret no more, not that you have been.  I’m collaborating with Ministry Tech Magazine and they are publishing my writings.  Ministry Tech Magazine, formerly Christian Computing Magazine, launched today with their new branding and I’m honored to have an article on Windows 10 as their cover story.  Check them out.

I will still do my best to post here on the blog.  I’m sure I can find something to rant about that wouldn’t be appropriate for the magazine but for now if you are looking for tech stuff be sure to visit their site.  They publish monthly and their articles can be read online or you can read the magazine electronically online or download a PDF.

Featured ArticleThis month’s article is on Windows 10, next month’s will be on Windows 10 licensing and whether Windows 10 is really free or not.  Windows 10 will be released on July 29 but it will be slowly so Microsoft servers aren’t slammed with everyone downloading at once.  Then on August 1, the final bits will be released to Volume Licensing and enterprise users and the rest as they say will be history.

Be sure to send my friends at Ministry Tech Magazine some web traffic love!  See you there!

Windows 10 for Churches and Ministries

Microsoft has announced to the world that Windows 10 will be ready on July 29, 2015.  For many this is great news as the previous version of Windows leaves a lot to be desired.  In addition, Microsoft is looking to finally put XP to bed and entice Windows 7 users who skipped Windows 8 to upgrade.  Many ministries and non-profits are probably wondering if it is worth the effort to upgrade.  Will the work and effort be worth the benefits?  What about productivity loss due to staff and volunteers learning the new operating system?  I think the benefits will be worth the effort and that it will be less painful than you may think.

Windows 10 is a huge paradigm shift for Microsoft and for the Windows user base.  The first big shift is that this will be the final version of Windows.  There won’t be a Windows 11, 12, or 29.  Why Windows 10?  No one really knows for sure.  Perhaps it is because like Star Trek movies only ever other one can be good.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture < Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn.  Some say it is because 10 is a nice round number and skipping 9 implies it will be the final version.  Others say that the Windows code base refers to Window 9* too much therefore skipping Windows 9 makes coding easier.  Another idea, and my favorite, is that seven eight nine.  That’s seven ate nine.

Despite all the speculation as to why Windows 10 is called Windows 10 the message is clear, no more versions after this.  Perhaps Microsoft will gradually drop the “10” and we will just be left with Windows.  The reason this is the final version is that there will be no more waiting for features to be released at each Windows version.  Instead, new features and changes will be released regularly alongside the current mechanism for security updates and patches.

Releasing features on an ongoing basis will allow Windows 10 to update faster and stay current with the needs of its users.  Users will be able to decide when new features are applied to Windows and organizations will have control over features rolling out to their end users.

The second big shift for Microsoft are the interface changes coming to Windows 10.  Windows 8 had a lot of common functionality removed.  Many keyboard and mouse users felt forgotten.  Microsoft said no one used the Start Menu so it was removed.  Fortunately, they have changed course and the Start Menu along with a host of other new features are coming in Windows 10.  For some they can’t come soon enough.  Here are some highlights of the changes coming.

Not only is the Start Menu coming back but also the Start Screen isn’t being totally abandoned.  The Start Screen is what comes up when pressing the Windows button in Windows 8 and 8.1.  The Start Screen contains Start Screen apps and Live Tiles.  I find Live Tiles to be very useful for gathering a lot of information at a glance.   In Windows 10, the Live Tiles from the Start Screen will be merged with the Start Menu providing the functionality of both in a single location.  Start Screen apps will now run as native Windows apps as opposed to running in a separate, often confusing window.  The Start Menu coming back will make the upgrade process much less painful for users currently running Windows7 and will make users running Windows 8/8.1 rejoice.

Windows 10 also includes a more flat graphical design.  Many of the drop shadows that were removed in Windows 8 are back making it much easier to tell which window is the active or selected window.  Of course, many commonly used icons have also been updated.  Sometimes these graphical changes can cause user trepidation.  I find it helpful to remind users that Recycle Bin is still the Recycle Bin even if the icon looks different.  It’s like driving a car, if you can drive one, you can probably drive most of them even if some of the controls are in different places. 

In addition to the graphics being flatter, the sounds have also been updated to be softer and more soothing. 

Another new feature to Windows 10 is virtual desktops.  Virtual desktops have been around a long time in other operating systems but are new to the Windows world.  Virtual desktops allow you to have multiple versions of your desktop running.  In Windows now, you may have 40 different windows open but they are all filling up the task bar making it crowded and difficult to find things.  With virtual desktops, you can divide them up.  One desktop might have a picture of your family along with your email open, a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet.  Another desktop might have a picture of your favorite movie and have 3 of your favorite games running.  Not only can this be used to separate work from pleasure but also to better organize your applications based on the task you have at hand.

Windows 10 also comes with a brand new internet browser.  Internet Explorer is dead.  While it can still be installed and used, especially for legacy applications, the new browser is called Microsoft Edge and it comes installed by default.  Edge does what the name implies; it is there to be an unobtrusive edge around the internet content.  It is clear that Microsoft is playing catch up here but Edge does run very fast and could easily become my new default browser of choice.

Cortana is also coming to Windows 10.  If you play Halo then you know who Cortana is.  If you don’t play Halo, Cortana is a built in virtual assistant for Windows 10.  She is similar to Apple’s Siri or Google’s Now except that Cortana is more contextually aware.  The more access to your personal information you give her the more she can help you plan.  The question is how much access will you give her so she can help you out.  It is great that she can remind you to get your wife a birthday present and help you leave early to avoid traffic but that means she has to have access to your calendar.  Some may not be comfortable with that.

Cortana can also help you use your computer hands-free.  She can take dictation, and even help you change computer settings.  Of course, if you want, she can be turned off.

Microsoft has told us that Windows 10 will be free to “most users”.  This is rather complicated as while “most users” include those who purchased hardware and activated the version of Windows that came with the hardware it does not necessarily include business or enterprise users.  If you have questions ask your Microsoft licensing representative, but don’t’ wait too long as come July 29 lots of business and enterprises will be flooding Microsoft with questions.

If you’d like to start experimenting with Windows 10, you can download a copy now at http://preview.windows.com.  By running the preview, you can provide Microsoft with feedback as to what you like and don’t like about the operating system.  This feedback will help with the continual development of Windows 10.  Remember, Windows 10 isn’t going to be released and then forgotten.  Once released Windows 10 will continue to evolve.

I’m excited about Windows 10.  Microsoft seems to have gotten this one right and as end users, we stand to gain a lot.