It’s a feature: Family Safety’s Activity Report in Windows 10

Ever since Windows 10 was released to the general public, there has been a concerted effort to discredit the operating system and Microsoft. This release has been the target of those who believe that their privacy has been compromised and that Microsoft is collecting all it can on them.  While a few of the default settings should not have been set to be the default, there is nothing nefarious going on and the latest release of Windows is no more invasive than any previous release of Windows or the Mac OS for that matter. 

Now, these people have taken aim at one of the better features of WIndows for children: the Family Safety feature. 

win10famsafeSomeone discovered that a report is generated that contains things like web sites visited, applications used and how long and computer usage. The report is emailed to the parent or person who set up the family safety.

Sorry, people, this feature has been in family safety from day one. It was in Vista. It was in Windows 7 and both releases of Windows 8. Nothing new about it.

Yep, this report is integral to the feature. It does spy on the child, that is the point.  It lets the parent know what the child is doing and how long they are doing it.  I, for one, am glad it is there.  I’ve used this feature since the Vista days. Only, then, instead of emailing, it would pop up a notification in Windows that the report is ready. 

So, obviously, the people complaining about this feature have never used family safety and, likely, do not have children.

I do not see problem with this feature and have utilized it in the past and will do so again. I have two more children that I want to be safe on the Internet and whom I don’t want on the computer 24/7.  So, to those who oppose this feature, I say, go find something worthwhile to complain about, like the high price of cell service, gasoline or other such product.  Windows 10 is awesome, family safety is awesome.

Note:

Family Safety has changed with Windows 10 and will be doing a new write up on the feature at a later date.

Advertisements

Customize your Windows 10 experience

OK, you upgraded from Windows 7 or one of the Windows 8 flavors and want to personalize your machine.  In previous versions of Windows, all the way back to Windows 95, you could create themes, have slideshow backgrounds and change your color scheme.  You can still do that, but Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to make it way more complicated than it should be.  This is one thing in Windows 10 they got wrong.

This short little guide should help.

Change the background picture to a slide show

settingsPersonalizationThis is actually easy to do, just buried. So, to start, you will need to create a folder and put the pictures you want to show in the folder.  Next, open up the SETTINGS app and select PERSONALIZATION or, right click the desktop and select PERSONALIZE. Next, select BACKGROUND. In the BACKGROUND selection box, click the arrow and select SLIDESHOW. Below that, there will be another button where you can actually choose the folder that contains the photos you wish to include in the slide show. Select the folder, click the Use folder button and that’s that. Your slideshow should start. You can change the duration, shuffle the pictures, etc.

ThemessettingsTheme

One post on Microsoft’s own site says that the ability to create themes is gone, by design, from Windows 10.  This seems true, you cannot create a new, blank theme.  You can, however, SAVE changes to the CURRENT THEME, which there is ALWAYS a current theme.  So, set up your background image, system sounds and color scheme the way you want and then save the theme.  Here’s how…

settingsTheme3Setup your background image, if you want a slide show, follow the instructions above. Now, to setup your sounds, right click the desktop and select PERSONALIZE. From there, select THEMES.  There is a link to setup the system sounds, click that and it works and looks EXACTLY like it did in previous versions of Windows.  Once done, Click OK to close that window.  Repeat the process for the mouse, if you want to change that as well. Once it is all the way you want, click the first link, Theme settings. This takes you to the OLD Theme page, but there are no options on the page.  However, the very first Theme listed is the current theme and it is called ‘UNSAVED THEME’ Right click that and select which type of theme you wish to save. The first choice simply saves the settings for YOUR use. The second choice gives the ability to package the theme so you can share it.  Make your choice and give it a name. Click OK and your new theme becomes a selection along with any themes you already had.  NOTE: in place upgrades will preserve any themes you made in previous versions of Windows. New installs will have a few that come with Windows 10.

Also, note that the ‘unsaved theme’ choice is missing now. It will reappear once you make a change.

Change the Lock Screen and the Screen Saver

settingsPersonalization2You can change the image that displays when you boot the computer or lock it.  Right click the desktop, select PERSONALIZE and then LOCK SCREEN.  From here, you can change the image for the lock screen and make it a slide show, static image or a BING picture of the day.  Click Background selection button (the down arrow) and make your choice. If you select SlideShow, you do the same thing here that you did for the desktop background slideshow. Once you select the background, you have other things you can set, like the application updates you want to see (for example, calendar events, weather, etc.) Set those by clicking one of the little squares with the plus sign. You will see a list of available apps to use for notices here.  Not all apps will show since not all provide this functionality.settingsLockscreen2

You can also change the screen saver from here. Scroll down until you see Screen Saver settings. Click the link and you will see the screen saver settings that we all know and love.  Select your screen saver and click OK.

There are other things you can do to further customize your experience.  You can change the color scheme from the PERSONALIZATION page.  I have it set to use the primary color of the background image, but you can make it whatever you want.  Go on and explore the Personalization page.  You will find most of the things that were in the previous versions of Windows, just looking a little different now and, unfortunately, often buried where you would not think to look…like the screen saver settings in the LOCK SCREEN page. 

Any questions? Post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer.

Don’t want to move to 10 yet? Like Windows 8.x but want some of those cool features? Read on..

No doubt, you are aware that Windows 10 has been released and adoption is going at a NASCAR pace.  But, you’ve heard the privacy concerns surrounding the new operating system. While those concerns are unfounded, you may have reservations nonetheless.  And, you may think, Windows 8 is working well, why should upgrade and run the risk?

Well, there are lots of great reasons to upgrade, there’s really no hurry. You have a year to get the upgrade for free (after which, you will, presumably, have to purchase the upgrade.) SIDENOTE: if you do upgrade now, or a year from now, you are not going to have to continue to pay after that year, the copy is yours for the life of the machine you’ve put it on. Windows will not become a subscription service.

So, if you choose not to upgrade Windows 8, but want some of those cool Windows 10 features, don’t worry, you can get some of them and make Windows 8 work more like Windows 10.

First thing you will need to do, however, is go to Stardock. com and purchase the Start8 program and ModernMix.  They are cheap and you will be happy that you got them.

So, what are they?

ModernMix allows you to run the Windows Store applications in a window instead of full screen, a behavior that is common in Windows 10.  Your Modern apps (also known as Windows Store or Metro apps  because Microsoft would not make up their minds) will now have minimize, maximize and close buttons in addition to a title bar, just like in Windows 10.

Start8 adds back the traditional Start menu you loved in Windows 7 and below.  In addition, it lets you customize it to look like Windows 7 or incorporate tiles, like Windows 8.  Choosing the Windows 8 look will make it work more like Windows 10.

Start8 allow you to boot to the desktop, a feature included in Windows 8.1.  You can do so in the Settings for Start8.

In Windows 8.1, click the Desktop tile to enter the desktop if you are not already in the desktop. Right click the desktop and select properties. Click on Navigation then ‘Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in’. This is enabled by default if you use a non-touch device.

Windows 8.x hides many traditional desktop icons. You can restore them using the control panel. Right click on the desktop, select Personalize, Change Desktop icons, select the icons you want to show or hide and click Apply, then OK.

These are the ‘biggies’ to make Windows 8.x look and work more like Windows 10 without actually installing the new operating system.  There are other things you can do, but they, too, involve purchasing software.  Decor8 gives you many of the same customization features on the Start screen that Windows 10 has, including the ability to change the background.

Of course, the best way and cheapest for now is to just upgrade. But, until you do, you can do the above steps to get the next best experience. 

UPDATE:

So, after I posted this article, I was reminded of Classic Shell.  Classic Shell does exactly what its name implies: it restores Windows back to the way it was in Windows XP and 7.  It brings the OLD Start Menu back from XP, 2000/ME or 7.  It also makes Explorer work more like XP’s Explorer than 8 or 10.  So, this may be an excellent choice for someone who wants to really remain in past version of Windows and doesn’t want the more modern eye candy.  It does not really fit with the spirit of this post, however, it may appeal to you anyway.  It is freeware, but the author wouldn’t turn down a donation.  You can go here to check it out.

Putting Windows 10 on my Toshiba Encore Mini

WP_20150802_20_59_36_ProI finally received the ‘Reserve Windows 10’ icon on my Toshiba Encore Mini last week, which I promptly went and ‘reserved’ my copy.  A day after general availability, I checked the icon and the resulting app that opened told me my Mini was compatible and there were no issues.  Of course, it only has 16GB of storage, of which 289 MB was available, I was a bit dubious.  So, upon finding out that one could download the Media Creation Tool, create an ISO file and install from that.

So, I proceeded to clear off some space so I could download the file-I did not know how much space I would need.  I got just over a gigabyte free and downloaded the tool.  Of course, it did not work. I tried to specify the SD card, which was 32GB and clear.  No go.

Persuing the ‘net for an ISO, which I thought Microsoft had on its site, but no longer do, I found an article on Softpedia that details how to download the ESD file and create an ISO from that. This ESD file is a compressed file image, very much like an ISO. We want an ISO because it can be mounted like a hard drive.

After getting the ISO and putting on the SD card, I mounted it as a drive on the Toshiba and began the installation process.  Unfortunately, I cannot say how long it took because I went to bed.  Upon checking it the next day, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had installed and the only things left were the usual user setup and download of the applications and remaining drivers.

BUT…

You knew there was a but, right?

There was the issue of drive space, the primary drive was zero bytes free.  Damn.

WP_20150802_20_59_39_ProSo…I fire up Explorer and began to poke around.  I discover the Windows.OLD directory was there. SIX GIGS worth. Now, you cannot simply right click and delete. The Trusted Installer owns the Windows directory that is in .OLD and that’s where the space was used.  Since you do not have rights to this directory, you must give them to yourself.  You must have Administrator privileges. First thing to do is right click on the Windows directory (Make sure it is in the Windows.old directory) and select PROPERTIES. Click Security.  Click ADVANCED.  Click CHANGE OWNER. Click ADVANCED, then FIND NOW. Look for your user account name and select it. Click OK, OK. Click Apply. It should then make you the owner of the directory and sub directories.  It may take a few minutes. Once done, dismiss all of the dialog boxes. From Explorer, click DELETE in the ribbon or right click and delete.  IF that does not get all files and directories, you may have to repeat the process for those directories.  It took me about fourty five minutes to get them all.  For some reason, some sub directories and files also require you to take ownership even if you ‘own’ the others.

After all of this, I ended up with just over 4GB of space left, enough to install the OFFICE Mobile Suite, which is free for screens under 10.7 inches. I was also able to install a few games from the store and still had space free, around 3GB. 

I didn’t think I’d be able to upgrade this thing, in fact, Paul Thurrot claimed to have broken his out of frustration. 

The end result is a fairly responsive and, now, usable 7 inch tablet that is running Windows 10 pretty smoothly…in 1GB of RAM.  Oh, and Bluetooth appears to be working, something that was not happening with Windows 8.1.

Turns out that my piece of junk, cheapo tablet isn’t such a piece of junk after all.  And, Word works just fine. How about that?

Windows 10: One more recap

10-UpgradeWell, the waiting is nearly over.  The Windows 10 rollout has begun. Those who are ‘insiders’ will be getting the bits first, then a staggered roll out for everyone who ‘reserved’ their copy will begin to get the new OS.  Your computer, if you reserved, will let you know when the OS has been downloaded so you can then install it.

So, just what will you get? What new functionality is in there, you might ask.  Well, here’s a short wrap up.

Cortana

Cortana is a digital assistant for your computer.  Cortana will search the web and your computer to give you the information you need, find that file or start an application.  You interact with Cortana in many different ways including keyboard, speech, the EDGE browser and other ways.  Cortana will learn how you use your computer and become more efficient and give you answers accordingly. And, since you use more than your computer, say a tablet or smartphone, Cortana is there. Available on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile/Phone, Cortana is there when you need it.

EDGE Browser

Replacing Internet Explorer, EDGE gives you a better browsing experience.  Faster rendering, more accurate rendering and the fastest Javascript processor yet.  EDGE is more minimalist and, therefore, easier to use.

 

EDGE has a unique feature that lets the user markup the page. You can take notes and draw on the web page and then send it to Microsoft OneNote for later use and indexing.  This feature works best with a touchscreen device, but is also mouse and keyboard friendly.

Bundled Applications

3-MailThe bundled applications have been improved. The mail and calendar applications, especially, received welcomed changes that make them easy to use, nicer to look at and smoother operation.  Looking more like a consumer edition of Outlook, Mail and Calendar play nice with not only Exchange, but GMAIL and other third party mail and calendar services. This is not your Dad’s Outlook.7-Photos (1)

Photos application now includes support for importing photos from your phone, has the same editing features that were nice in the Windows 8 version of this application AND have more intuitive OneDrive integration.

Start

8-StartThe Start menu looks familiar to both fans of Windows 7 and Windows 8. It retains the live tiles of Windows 8, arguably the best feature of Windows 8 AND the Windows 7 menu.  If you like 7, you’ll love this, ditto for Windows 8 fans. The Start menu can go full screen for those who like the Start Page from 8/8.1 Or it can reduce to almost nothing if you despise it.  However, in the default configuration, I think everyone will like them. Live tiles present information (if coded) that often precludes the need to open the application all the time. 

For a more in depth look at the operating system, click here to download the Quick Guide from Microsoft.

Windows 10, fun things to know

With Windows 10 about to launch, I thought I would share some tips on using the ‘new’ operating system.   If you have used Windows 8/8.1, some of these will be familiar.

EDGE – Internet Explorer’s replacement browser

  • When you fire up EDGE, you will notice, right away, thisedgefave is not Internet Explorer.  It does what all browsers do, and that’s serve up the now standard fare of HTML/Javascript/CSS based pages.  It does so very quickly and much more standards based than Internet Explorer ever did.  However, upon upgrading to Windows 10, EDGE knows nothing about your favorites. As you would with another browser, you must import your favorites.  Do so by clicking the ‘Hub’ icon, it’s the three uneven lines on your EDGE window, in the upper right corner.  When the panel opens, click the Star icon (your favorites) and then select Import Favorites and then the browser you wish to import from. It will take a few seconds, depending on the number of links you have.  Your favorites are now imported.
  • One of the things about tabbed browsing is having a tab play audio when you don’t want it win10EdgeNiceor expect it. Finding that tab, especially if you have many open, isn’t always obvious. With Edge, in Windows 10, it is a bit more obvious. Refer to the photo, the opened tab has an audio indicator and a play button. These let you know which tab or tabs have media playing. You can switch to that tab and take care of the offending media.

  • In the current version, 10240, EDGE does not have the ability to display multi levels of forward or backward pages.  For example, in IE or Chrome, if you right click the back button, you will see 10 levels or so of history. Not so in EDGE.

START Menu

newstartThe Start Menu, which Microsoft decided to bring back from the dead, has been greatly enhanced. It is also customizable.

  • In Desktop mode, the Start menu takes up little space. It has, on the left side, that traditional style Start Menu listing of applications and functionality. On the right side, is what remains of the Windows 8/8.1 Start Page.  You can pin things to the Start Page and the live tiles will work, provided the tile belongs to Windows Store application.   The whole thing can be resized by grabbing the upper right corner of the menu and dragging it up and to the right.
  • In Desktop mode, you can make the Start Menu take up the entire screen, if you like that. To do so, go to Settings->Personalization->Start. Click ‘Use Full Screen’ and close the settings.  Click the Start Button and you should see a full screen Start Menu/Page.
  • Right clicking on a live tile will pop up a menu giving more control over them.  You can unpin the tile, resize it, turn it on or off, pin to the taskbar or uninstall the application.
  • You can make the taskbar, action center and start page transparent by opening Settings->Personalization->Colors. Turn on the transparency by clicking ‘Make Start, taskbar, and action center Transparent’ slider.

Task Manager

taskmanThe ALT-Tab task switching, though looking different, still works the same. Microsoft has taken that notion, added in a bit of the Vista style task switching and went full screen with tiled representations of the running applications. You can select an application to switch to OR…and you LInux people will deride this as old, send an application to a new desktop. Yes, Windows 10 now has multiple desktops.  You can activate this feature by clicking on the desktop icon next to the Cortana icon on the task bar.

 

So, there you have a few nice features of Windows 10.  Check back for more.

Windows update, activation and 10: two major problems and a happy ending

As part of his graduation, we gave my oldest son a gaming computer. It’s nothing too fancy, a middle of the road gaming rig so he can play League of Legends with as little ‘lag’ as possible. The machine we got him, a CyberPower PC special from Best Buy, is no slouch: quad core, 3.7ghz processor, AMD/ATI R 6700 graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 2.2TB HDD.  Oh, it runs Windows 8.1.

Now, the computer came with a lesser graphics card, my son inherited the R 6700 (I think that’s the number) card and, ever since we put it in, it has caused several blue screens.  In all of the time I’ve run 8 or 8.1, I think I’ve had two such issues. Well, with the last blue screen, came an activation issue.

Windows did not think it was activated. 

Great.

So, I proceed to activate.  No go.  After several attempts, I discover the key is now invalid.  What?

A call to Microsoft resulted in finger pointing to CyberPower PC. The key is an OEM key and Microsoft refuses to help on them.  So, I call the OEM. As it was on a Saturday, they had limited hours and I had both limited patience and battery on my phone.  After 45 minutes on hold, my phone was losing juice and I lost patience. 

Remembering that I had a clean, legal copy of WIndows 8 PRO-with an unused key-I thought, well, I’ll just install 8, upgrade to 8.1 and put him on the Windows 10 track.  Simple.

It started out great, Windows 8 took 20 to 30 to install.  Upon the desktop setup, I proceed to the Windows Store to grab 8.1. No go. Have to update first.  How stupid is this? So, I goto Windows Update.  Boy, my friend Sam was right, this damn thing is broken. Sorry Sam. Over 150 updates awaited.  So, I told my son to keep an eye on it and my wife and I went out.

At some point, it appears the computer went to sleep.  DURING UPDATING.  My son lets me know.  Well, the interrupted update BROKE the update process!

Nothing I did fixed it.  It’s 11pm now and I’ve wasted the day-save the two hours I was with my wife-on this bloody computer. Not happy.

So, I recalled that one can go to Windows 10 directly from 7, 8 or 8.1. So, I went ahead and upgraded to the most current build of Windows 10.  The upgraded took about 45 minutes, but it worked like a charm.  We had to install Direct 3d/dx 9, but League of Legends worked and did not need to be reinstalled – which, itself, takes hours and hours and hours.

So far, with one exception, 10 has worked very well.  It did blue screen, but the error was really odd and had to do with sound. This computer has some odd hardware, so I am thinking it is a driver issue and I plan to check them all for compatibility.

This whole process was just a joke.  Windows Activation is the most assinine thing yet.  There is just no reason for Microsoft to continue with that mess. It does not stop those who want to steal it and just causes major headaches for those of who play by the rules.  And Windows Update? Holy hell.  What a major blemish that has become.

Microsoft, I implore you, do the right thing and ditch activation. Fix the update process.  And hire people who can CLEARLY speak the same bloody language as those who call your centers.

That is all.