IE10 More Feedback

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Windows-10-Preview-Start-Menu-Look-and-Features-460698-2When Microsoft announced the preview of Windows 10, it emphasised the “opportunity to influence product development decisions through the new Windows Feedback app directly within the product”.

Users can not only give feedback, but also see — and vote on — the feedback of others, giving all of us a chance to assess what users think of Microsoft’s latest offering.

Microsoft is trying to remould Windows away from its radical Windows 8 remake into something more familiar to Windows 7 users. Live tiles used to live only in a separate Start screen but have now been brought into the desktop, in a panel alongside a revived Start menu, and the touch-friendly Store apps now launch in desktop windows.

But if live tiles are now in the desktop, should they have more of a role? “It would be great if app tiles could also/alternatively be pinned to the desktop (like Windows 7 widgets)” is one popular suggestion.

And why is the new panel crippled, compared with the Windows 8 Start screen? “Let us organise our live tiles on the Start menu the way you could on the Start screen – with different headings/sections” is supported by 84 users so far.

The way Store apps behave is another tricky area. Currently they open by default in maximised windows, but “modern apps should not all start in full screen in desktop view, some apps (eg, Calculator) should default to a smaller size,” say 30 users. Note, though, that Microsoft seems to have a fix for this already, at least for new apps, since the feedback app is itself a Store app and does not open maximised.

And what about Store apps that duplicate desktop apps? “Only one calculator, having two creates unnecessary confusion,” says a comment, while others miss having a choice of web browsers. “How do I get back Modern IE? Desktop IE feels archaic to me.”

Search is prominent in Windows 10, but “the search button isn’t entirely necessary on desktop, as you can access the same functionality from the start menu”, say several users. Could it be that the second search button is a placeholder for Cortana, the automated personal assistant in Windows Phone?

Nor is everyone happy being force-fed Bing. “Allow other search providers such as Google or Yahoo,” say 62 users. What about the way Windows search mixes web and local results? 361 users agree that mixing Windows and web search is a “terrible idea … if I want to search the web I will start IE.”

The way Microsoft bakes its own cloud services into Windows causes some discontent. “Let us be able to disable and uninstall OneDrive” say 46 users. Another tried to switch from Dropbox but found OneDrive buggy. “If I am to trust OneDrive, you need to fix bugs like this” is the conclusion.

Internet Explorer (IE) will receive a major update before Windows 10 is released, but it still comes in for a beating. “IE is terrible, give us the option on first login of which default browser to install and use,” says one, while another opines “Microsoft, please make a deal with Google and use its browser … [IE] is still as slow as a fart in a frying pan.”

Another user asks why IE still has “Automatically detect settings” on by default, ensuring a slow and usually fruitless search for proxy settings every time it starts.

Then there are the optimists. “Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint should be free and built into Windows 10, this would tempt people away from Chromebooks and Mac,” says a user, supported by 10 others.

Windows 10 feedback tool

Finally, what of the feedback process itself? “If Microsoft would like its customers to do free software testing, could they at least provide a proper bug-tracking tool with severity level and current status,” observes a user, while another says simply, “Enough! This feedback app is doing my head in.”


Xpocalypse Now?


Windows XP

Windows XP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s past April 10th 2014 so I’m assuming you have all upgraded your PCs from XP to, well practically anything really!


OK, well you’re not the only one, leaving aside the corporations willing to £150 per machine per year for continued XP support (and probably only critical updates) if you still have XP what should you do now.

Emergency Check List
1. Start thinking about an upgrade, the longer you leave it, the more painful the upgrade will be…
2. Check to see your you are up to date on the pre-April updates.
3. Stop using Internet Explorer now, it’s linked to the Windows system and will be vulnerable followed by more vulnerable in the coming months. Choose Firefox or Chrome or Opera as your main browser. Install it today!
4. Stop using Office 2003 if you have it switch to 2007

If you have simple Word Processing and Spreadsheet needs, consider the MS email system comes with free cut down online copies of their Word and Excel applications.

5. Stop using Outlook Express – you should have done that years ago anyway. Invest in a copy of Outlook 2007 or later.

Update everything else, Java, Flash etc but check Java first if you don’t need it, uninstall it it’s a security vulnerability.

Basically, if you elect to stay with XP you are in the warzone, depending on what the hackers and malware exporters do next, you will either have no problem at one end of the spectrum or be the source of viruses and malware to thousands of other machines at the other.

No really knows the full extent of the problem, but the advice from the experts is that Microsoft have given you no real choice but to dump XP in favour of something else. I’ll talk about the options in another post soon.

XP Migration – don’t get left behind


XP migration need not be a nightmare!

I was asked a question on Monday that I hoped I would not hear it was “This XP thing, if we do nothing, what will really happen?”

This was a question from the person in charge of IT at my “day job” like a lot of small companies her role includes a lot more than just IT and often as not it was the IT that tended to get shunted to the end of the list. With my professional hat on and because I was a company user, I had hoped that my lectures on the need to move from XP to something more modern (delivered since Autumn of 2013) had not fallen on deaf ears but guessed that time and money both the enemies of our business had once again worked their evil spell and the chances of anything changing before 8th April 2014 was now remote.

The experts are fairly clear on this and according to them it is likely XP will be targeted by hackers support ends. But my overworked colleague is not the only one wondering if she can get away with doing nothing at all! It is estimated that as many as 30 per cent of firms have not upgraded from XP which begs the question why?

1. Cost: aside from the investment in new machines, there is also the time and money to do the upgrade. The company I work for uses an IT firm and one can guess that they will be looking for many thousands of pounds to do the work. But this needs to be set against the dangers of the loss of private data which could incur fines and the loss of productivity since a single compromised machine could bring the entire network of a business to a halt. It was mentioned that since my firm is small and unimportant they were unlikely to be targeted, a comment which simply proves the need for IT experts in all businesses! An upgrade to Windows 8 now could save thousand in the medium to long term.

2. Time: Many businesses are concerned about the time it will take to migrate to another operating system; it can take larger firms up to 30 months. Small firms can install and migrate in a fairly short space of time. I estimate the 100 or so machines we would only need 300-350 hours of install and migration time and with a server install this time could be reduced still further. Once you have completed the upgrade the time savings will be huge.

3. Training: I hear this one a lot, my own company is concerned that staff won’t adapt to the new operating system and while this may be true for some staff, many will already have Windows 7 or 8 in their homes and be used to using Android or IOS systems on their mobile devices. Often concerns like these will be more about the issues of senior management who are occasional users compared to their staff who will adapt easily. Which lead us neatly to the last item…
4. Fear of the new: Many businesses stick with XP simply because they are used to it and believe their staff are the same. They’ll trot out hardware excuses and concerns about some older application, but XP is more than a decade old and feeling its age. Even if it continued to be supported by Microsoft it is losing ground to its younger siblings and companies need to think that poor performance means poor productivity. In business outputs are all so it always surprises me that SME will often tolerate IT that would be more suited to an episode of “Flog It!” even though it costs them money they don’t have!

The message is clear, fail to upgrade at your own risk, you could be fine (for a while) or you could see your entire network corrupted. The danger is real and any reasonable prediction sees would be hackers trying out any and all vulnerabilties – simple because they can!

As for my lot in the day job, well I would not be surprised if they are not calling for the PCBloke in the very near future!

XP to Linux – Keep it simple!

Linux Mint 11

Linux Mint 11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


For many of my clients and people I have spoken to, the prospect of moving from Windows XP to something else has provoked annoyance, outrage and in many cases a blank refusal to accept that they need to do anything. The fact of the matter is that in April Microsoft will stop all support for XP desktops and the first well designed piece of malware that hits the net will (potentially) have the power to wreck havoc on XP machines. Whether that actually happens only time and malware will tell, but this blog post is for the people who don’t want to take the risk and


a) Decide to migrate to another operating system and;
b) Do not want to spend money on a new computer.


That really means a Linux Operating System. Linux at time of writing is about 150 free open source operating systems, covering a range of PC hardware. Just about any computer from the last 10-15 years will run some form of Linux distribution or “Distro.” But one of the weakness of Linux from the point of view of the new user is the sheer number of operating systems – which one is the best?


From the point of view of someone an XP user and at the risk of annoying the various distro fans out there I think you can narrow the choice to 3


1) Lubuntu – an OS decided for systems with no a lot of RAM and low powered processors. Pentium 4 Pentium M and the like and less than a gigabyte of RAM
2) Linux Mint – for more powerful systems, dual core processors and more than a gigabyte of RAM
3) Ubuntu – Modern processors, i series, 2 gigabytes of RAM and better


There are numerous caveats to this list but it’s a good starting point for a beginner.


Zorin market a heavily customised version of Linux with a strong Windows “feel” it needs a fairly good machine to run the eye candy but might make the transition easier. I will do a blog post on Zorin in the near future


One consolation for the XP user coming to terms with Linux is that in addition to the OS Linux will come with lots of software, typically, an office suite, usually Open Office or Libre Office, Audio and Video players, image software, PDF readers and much much more. To add to the bargain, literally thousands more pieces of software can be downloaded using a dedicated download device built into the operating system. No hunting around trying to find what you want only to discover you have downloaded all sorts of nasties in the process.


However anyone hoping to use Microsoft Office or Quicken or another MS programme will be disappointed. It is possible to get some software to run under Windows but I would always advise beginners to look to some of the alternatives.


Most distros will come with a Live CD, DVD, or USB flash drive version appropriate for the user that wants to try it out before committing to an installation. ‘


If this all sounds too good to be true there are downsides. Linux is not Windows so there is a new thing to learn, even downloading new software can be daunting to the uninitiated.  There is a good chance your printer or scanner may not work and all your carefully purchased Win XP software is just a mini Frisbee collection!  Against that, the big Linux Distros update twice a year cost nothing to run come with all the software available for free and Linux is virtually virus proof.


Is it for me?


If you are a power user of Microsoft products probably not, if you spend time on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and browsing the web for Lolcats the chances are you will hardly notice the difference. Chrome and Firefox work perfectly well in Linux and some users may even enjoy a new challenege.
Information on Ubuntu


Using Synaptic to download software in Ubuntu


Information on Linux Mint


Information on Zorin, the Windows Friendly Distro


List of Linux operating systems