Free Upgrade to Windows 10

windows 10 free upgrade

Free upgrade to Windows 10 – what are you waiting for? Chances are you have seen the upgrade prompt and have either already upgraded, really don’t want to or are somewhere in-between.

For those who are steadfast Windows 7 fans the introduction of Windows 8 may have put you off upgrading. Whilst I am a fan of 8.1, the out-of-the-box confusing user interface was responsible for most of the gripes; luckily Windows 10 combines the best parts of both operating systems, and YES, the start menu is back! The charms bar has gone in favour of an improved settings area and the dual modern and classic desktop environments introduced in Windows 8 are no more.

Other benefits include;

-Improved (customisable) search will include web, store and local device results. Use voice activated Cortana virtual assistant from here for searches, scheduling and more.

-Virtual desktops to split and segregate workloads. Snap windows to corners or left/right.

-New Edge browser allows user annotation and sharing, Cortana integration and a simplified reading mode.

-“Windows Hello” allows sign in via fingerprint, face or iris scan on supported devices.

-Seamless integration with your free OneDrive cloud storage.

-Universal app platform to enable the same app to work on signed in Windows 10 devices – pc, phone, tablet, Xbox etc.

-Security and performance improvements on previous Windows versions.

 

Best of all it’s free until the end of July – and if it really isn’t for you then you have 30 days to roll back to your previous version of Windows.

Mark Warburton – Technical Consultant Sound Networks

 

Windows 7 support has come to an end

windows 7 support ends

Yes, it’s true, this means no more updates, no more service packs, or updates to malicious software removal tools. Of course you have to remember that Windows 7 (good as it was) is now three operating systems back in time, since then we have had Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and now of course Windows 10.

The updates will stop flowing because Microsoft of course want you to upgrade to Windows 10, and from our point of view, this is a good thing. Not only is it free but where corporate users are concerned, who have multiple PC’s and want a single platform across all of them it’s a great and inexpensive way to achieve that – providing there is support for the other desktop apps they may be using.

The more cynical amongst us will of course want to know why Windows 10 is currently free – the simple answer is that it’s cheaper to support something new than something old!

Paul Cox – IT Director Sound Networks

Built in SSH service coming to Windows

PowerShell - Open SSH Logo

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that they would be adding SSH services built into Windows. This means third party SSH applications are no longer required as Microsoft have said they will be supporting OpenSSH.

SSH or Secure Shell Session is a secure method to remotely administer computers and servers. This has been a problem for windows users in the past where third party apps were required such as Putty. So Microsoft’s PowerShell team have decided that they will support OpenSSH platform, integrate it into Windows and build a better application experience with the Open SSH community.

Angel Calvo, PowerShell Team Group Software Engineering Manager, states;

“A popular request the PowerShell team has received is to use Secure Shell protocol and Shell session (aka SSH) to interoperate between Windows and Linux – both Linux connecting to and managing Windows via SSH and, vice versa, Windows connecting to and managing Linux via SSH. Thus, the combination of PowerShell and SSH will deliver a robust and secure solution to automate and to remotely manage Linux and Windows systems.”

This has been attempted before with Microsoft so let just see what happens.

Watch this space…

Windows 10 on the way…

Windows 10 Logo

Windows 10 is on its way later this year and will be free upgrade for the first year to those with a genuine Windows 7 or 8 licence. Despite the improvements brought about by the 8.1 update, there was always going to be room for more, and the hope is Windows 10 will impress and evolve where Windows 8 did not.

Here we’ll outline a few of the major changes on their way.

The start menu is back! It’s a mix of the traditional start menu with the addition of live tiles. These tiles can be dragged around and resized, apps can be pinned and system items such as Control Panel, Network and Documents can be added. There is even an option to remove all live tiles, pin what you want to access on the left side, resize, and it’ll look like the Windows 7 menu. The power button is back and there is also a “most used” app list. Overall an eagerly awaited and worthwhile overhaul.

Cortana – the digital personal assistant – is included and accessed via the search bar next to the start menu. Alternatively it can be voice activated if you have a mic attached. Use it (her!) to search your pc & the web and manage your calendar and so on.

“Continuum” or tablet mode will initiate if a keyboard/mouse is detached, making the O/S touch friendly. The start menu will become the start screen and your apps will run full screen. The taskbar and other icons also adapt to suit; tablet mode can be manually enabled or disabled if required.

Internet Explorer is now called “Microsoft Edge” (was Spartan prior to this). The “Hub” button allows you to view your favourites, reading lists, history and downloads. You are also able to take notes, doodle and highlight onto web pages for your own use or to share, albeit on a screenshot of the page.

“Windows Hello” will allow you to use a fingerprint, face or retina scan for security, assuming the system has biometric security hardware. For those who struggle to generate and remember passwords this could be the answer!

Multiple desktops are now a possibility if you want to keep working environments separated. “Snap” is now enhanced, allowing among other features, the ability to snap 4 windows into a 2 x 2 grid and vertical snapping for 2 windows.

Universal apps will have the same look and feel across devices – they will also now integrate with the traditional desktop environment and be framed to allow resizing, moving, minimising etc. to behave as desktop applications, removing that particular frustration that Windows 8 presented.

And finally – a small but most welcome change, especially for us IT geeks – full copy and paste support now included in command prompt!

These are just a selection of the features Windows 10 is due to bestow upon us. Personally I appreciate Windows 8.1 in its latest form but I can see why others do not and where improvements and changes needed to be implemented. Windows XP and Windows 7 turned out to be well liked and widely adopted by most – we are hoping for the same from Windows 10 if it delivers on what has been a promising preview.

 

Windows 8.1 Update 1

win8

With the “Windows 8.1 Update 1” released in April, Microsoft are hoping to gain favour with traditional keyboard and mouse users feeling hard done-by by the touch orientated interface, as well as to introduce some other welcome improvements.

Firstly there is now a search charm and power button located in the top right hand corner. You can start typing to automatically open the search as is standard, but thankfully shutting down is now easier to initiate.

Windows will now boot to the desktop as default, although the option to enable this was already manually available.

The apps screen has larger spacing between tiles to allow longer names to be displayed. The tiles can also be shrunk to fit more on-screen. You now have the ability to right-click on tiles and perform basic functions such as resizing, pinning to the taskbar and uninstalling, via a context menu. Newly installed apps have a label appended with – you guessed it – “NEW”.

A new user will now have the addition of some useful tiles on the start screen – This PC (what was “My Computer”), PC settings, Documents and Pictures.

Usefully the taskbar now moves with you – so you can view it and any pinned and minimised apps when on the start screen, desktop, Internet Explorer or when in other apps. Moving the cursor to the bottom of the screen prompts the appearance of the hidden taskbar.

Giving further ground to mouse users, modern apps will now have those familiar “close” and “minimise” buttons. You’ll need to turn on “Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar” for the minimise button to be displayed.

Some of these behaviours will vary depending on the host device – tablet users for example will not see the power icon top right, but then these changes were focused on improving the desktop experience.

This latest update for Windows 8 certainly improves the experience for desktop computer users. Those waiting to move away from an older operating system should now seriously consider migrating – the recent updates will make the transition a much smoother one than when Windows 8 was first released. Go on, try it, you might like it!

Mark Warburton

Everlasting Life?

In-Windows-XP-style

This may be what some users had hoped; this is not what Microsoft has in mind for Windows XP.

Despite the previous statement that, Come April 2014, in Microsoft’s own words “there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates”. It now seems that there is some light at the end of the tunnel for those that still want to cling on to their beloved thirteen year old operating system. But don’t be fooled in to thinking this will go on forever or it’s the answer to all your legacy software problems – it’s not, so read on!

Microsoft recently announced that they will provide a one year extension on Anti Malware Support only despite the plans to retire XP in April 2014. However, whilst the virus warnings and updates will continue until July 14, 2015, all other support for the software — such as bug fixes, free assistance and software upgrades — remains on track to go silent on the targeted cutoff of April 8, 2014.

So although this may seem as welcome news to some, it would be easy to view this as something it is not and be lulled into a ‘very’ false sense of security.

With up to 39% of business desktops still running Windows XP, without the other vital updates and support for the Operating System – this prevents a huge possible attack vector for cyber criminals. As time goes on, this will only get worse as weaknesses are gradually exploited further and further.

We think it’s time for change – so long XP.

Paul Cox.

 

The time is upon us………………

The time is upon us – your trusty old workhorse, Windows XP is due for retirement. After a very good innings of what will be over 12 years (a considerable amount of time in the IT world) Microsoft is sending Windows XP out to pasture.

Come April 2014, in Microsoft’s own words “there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates”.

In real terms this means updates will stop and if you have new problems you won’t be able to get help. The software will become more unstable and unsecure, and hardware and software manufacturers will phase out supporting the product. It may also result in non-compliance of quality management accreditation – your auditing body can confirm this.

Think how much has changed in computing since 2001 and you can understand why it’s time for XP to go – where were cloud computing, virtualisation and mobile computing for example, in 2001? It was never designed with these technologies in mind.

Since XP’s release Windows Vista came along which many considered a slight blip on the way to the excellent Windows 7 and eventually 8. Both Window 7 and 8 are ideally suited to the modern working environment and have the functionality, security and efficiency you’d expect in order to cope with current computing challenges.

Oh, and along with Windows XP, Office 2003 is heading for the same fate. So if you are still reliant on Windows XP or are using Office 2003 please start planning now and avoid the inevitable problems end of support may bring.

Mark Warburton, IT Consultant