Updated Windows Policy – Forced Upgrade to Windows 10

5567854546

Recently the net has been abuzz with the controversial and aggressive update/upgrade policies that Microsoft have been implementing.  While it’s true that Microsoft have made updates mandatory, some users have already found ways around this with software that either circumvents the update process or by installing the KB3073930 update which will delay the updates.

So while this entire update fiasco has been incredibly frustrating – especially for users utilizing metered connections, the Windows 10 experience has been pretty enjoyable thus far (I use a local account as I’m not interested in the MS apps or one-drive and so forth), that is of course if you actually chose to install Windows 10…

That’s right, if you are using Windows 7 or 8, you will be forcibly upgraded to Windows 10 whether you opted for the upgrade or not.  Microsoft has seen fit to use a sizable chunk of your hard-drive space in which to download their 3.5GB to 6GB hidden folder labelled ‘$Windows.~BT’.  So in essence, Microsoft have given users the illusion of choice – “upgrade when you are ready” and have decided to placate users with what has clearly been lip-service from a company who decided they wanted to be all about transparency.

Bottom line, whether you want it or not, if you intend on using any of Microsoft’s previous operating systems with an internet connection you will be upgraded to Windows 10.  Of course this decision has been rationalized by the company by saying that opting for Windows updates (presumably on the automatic setting) will download the “Windows 10 update”.  Sure, you can choose not to receive updates on Windows 7 & 8 but then you’d miss untold amounts of security and performance patches that as history will show, are usually necessary. Microsoft’s Windows-as-a-service model means that Windows 10 is utterly dependent on regular updates and patching as Windows 10 is essentially part of a continuous improvement program.

Why Microsoft felt the need to force this change on users is beyond me.  I can’t help but think that if they don’t rethink their aggressive upgrade policy that they will invariably lose users to the likes of Linux, OSX and so forth.  Does it bother me? Not so much, I was an early Windows 10 adopter and at the same time I use Linux as well.  Life is about choice – I wonder how long it will take Microsoft to realize that…

Advertisements

First Impressions – Windows 10

With Microsoft’s latest operating system mere hours from being launched to the general public (midnight launch tonight), there has been much anticipation surrounding Windows 10 and whether or not Microsoft can right the wrongs that Windows 8 committed. Needless to say Microsoft have promised a number of great things which they are adamant Windows 10 will be able to deliver.  Perhaps the biggest change is that Windows 10 will be “the last operating system ever” as the business model of the OS has now shifted to being offered as a service.  What does that mean for us? By being offered as a service, Windows 10 will be part of a continuous improvement process as the OS is continuously upgraded and tweaked via mandatory system updates (more on that in a bit).

Pressing on, I have managed to obtain Windows 10 Pro Edition (x64 of course) and decided to format my Win 8.1 installation in order to put the new OS to the test.  Bearing in mind that this article is merely my first impression upon successfully installing the OS and there will most likely be a follow-up article where I take a much closer look at what’s on offer.

The familiar system information screen, almost identical to Windows 8 and still devoid of the Windows Experience Index.

The familiar system information screen, almost identical to Windows 8 and still devoid of the Windows Experience Index.

So perhaps the most important aspect of installing a new OS (at least for me) is its ability to maintain compatibility with existing hardware and software – will I be able to install all my favourite games and applications successfully?

Starting at the top, I installed my Asus motherboard drivers (via driver disk) followed by AMD’s Catalyst 15.7 GPU package – both installed quickly without error.  Secondly, I attempted to install Driver Navigator (extremely useful app) however the software would not install due to a compatibility issue.  ACDSee Pro 8, Java 8, Adobe Flash, VLC Player, CCCP, Office 2013, Winrar, Witcher 3, Dragon Age Inquisition, CCleaner, Firefox, VeraCrypt, Rocketdock and Inkscape 0.48.5 all installed successfully – tested working. Because I found Windows Defender to be a little too enthusiastic (where cracked games are concerned), I installed AVG Internet Security 2015 which rectified the problem.

As expected, UAC makes a return and as usual it's the first thing I disable.

As expected, UAC makes a return and as usual it’s the first thing I disable.

Next, I wanted to test Apple & Android devices, I installed the latest version of iTunes and connected my iPod – detected, tested working.  Plugging in Android devices proved to be painless as well as both my Samsung S4 and Lenovo IdeaTab A3000 connected and were accessible without errors.

As Driver Navigator wasn't an option, I attempted to update several drivers via device manager, working surprisingly well (for a change).

As Driver Navigator wasn’t an option, I attempted to update several drivers via device manager, working surprisingly well (for a change).

As previously stated, I experienced no issues installing the 15.7 Catalyst Suite – omitting the components I didn’t want (AMD HD Audio driver) and that’s where Windows decided to “help out”. At this point I decided to run the update service to see how it works, sure enough, there were a number of security updates as well as the AMD Audio driver I had omitted installing from the Catalyst Suite.  Annoyingly, there was no way to stop this, however Windows does allow you to uninstall problematic drivers.

This aggressive mandatory update policy for Windows will undoubtedly change sooner or later especially since KB3073930 has already been released.  These mandatory updates have already proven to be problematic for Nvidia GPU owner’s as the auto-updates conflict with Nvidia’s own GeForce Experience application – an issue that will undoubtedly be addressed shortly.

5412225987

The KB3073930 update allows you to stifle/alter the mandatory updates to a degree.

Needless to say, as promised, Windows 10 comes with DirectX 12, which is also backwards compatible with a lot of DX11 cards such as my AMD R9280 OC GPU – great news!  Microsoft’s proprietary apps work as well as expected, such as Photos, and the updated Music application which I am quite fond of – upgraded from Windows 8.  I have yet to test Cortana as there were a myriad of updates for it and as Microsoft so proudly stated, Edge is fast, really fast but it will unlikely replace Firefox as my browser of choice anytime soon.

The sought-after DirectX 12 - an integral part of Windows 10.

The sought-after DirectX 12 – an integral part of Windows 10.

In closing, Windows 10 has made a good first impression with me, unlike the horrific ordeal I had with Vista back in 2006 (an unmitigated disaster).  I will continue to test and unearth what Windows 10 has to offer and if they manage to resolve this whole mandatory update fiasco they will earn further brownie points with users undoubtedly.  My opinion on all these “reasons not to upgrade to Windows 10” articles that are floating around? Ignore them.  The minimal requirements are negligible where the modern PC user is concerned and even older PC’s will run it quite comfortably.  Microsoft have learned their lesson since Windows 8 and I look forward to seeing how Windows 10 evolves in the coming months.

[Update – 2015-07-29:] I installed the latest version of Driver Navigator (version 3.6), installed successfully – tested working.

[Update – 2015-07-29:] Cortana Would not run due to my region (South Africa) not being supported.

How-to Install VeraCrypt on Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet)

If like many people in the world, you are concerned with privacy and security, there are many avenues one can take in order to safe-guard their precious data.  I am an avid subscriber to the VeraCrypt project and use it on my Windows machines and generally have an encrypted volume or two stored on external hard drives or thumb drives – it is a great application, intuitive and effective at what it does.  So while it’s all fine and well having it on Windows, how does one install it on Ubuntu…no surprises, look to the terminal and you will have it installed and running in no time.

As VeraCrypt is available via PPA, installing VeraCrypt 1.0f-1 on Ubuntu 15.04, Ubuntu 14.10, Ubuntu 14.04 and derivative systems is easy. All you have to do is add the ppa to your system, update the local repository index and install the VeraCrypt package.

To Install, open the terminal and type the following;

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unit193/encryption
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install veracrypt

and to uninstall;

$ sudo apt-get remove veracrypt

Installed and ready to use.

Installed and ready to use.

 

Silicon Valley

4343564778Creator of the infamous Beavis & Butt-head series (he wouldn’t even let his kids watch it) as well as the cult film Office Space, Mike Judge has returned with Silicon Valley – an eight episode, character-driven series (renewed for a second season *hooray*) that uses humour and satire in order to explore the world of software development.  Unlike The Big Bang Theory, Silicon Valley doesn’t pander to the masses, in that it does not single out popular aspects of ‘geek culture’ in order to exploit it for monetary gain or ratings (this is not to say that I don’t enjoy TBBT, quite the opposite in fact).  Put simply, Silicon Valley uses the more realistic ‘business model’ and premise of a bunch of socially awkward, geeky guys trying to make it big.  Obviously some liberties are taken (it is after-all, satire), but the series does offer some insight into the technology world, even though certain industry pundits have lambasted the series as being a negative representation of developers and the industry itself.

So while an article on a television series may seem a little unorthodox for a technology blog, I feel that as computer & video-games are very much part of the technology world, it’s logical for television to be a viable medium to represent technology, and Silicon Valley is part of that representation.  The image above is indicative of ‘making it big’ – “Where everyone wants to be an icon” such as the one (Steve Jobs) the protagonists are attempting to portray in this promotional poster.  T.J. Miller’s character (Erlich), dons the Steve Jobs persona (to great comedic effect for the most part), and even though he’s one of those love-to-hate, irritating characters in the beginning – forgoing his share of ten million dollars (for the bigger picture) and bitch-slapping a 10-year-old (who does that anymore?) in episode 6, reaffirms his position as a valuable member of the team.  For all his stupidity, Erlich plays a fundamental role in the group’s start-up company Pied Piper, as a type of enforcer as well the public voice – owing his lack of social awkwardness to his unending and seemingly misplaced confidence.

3326995741

Thomas Middleditch portrays Richard Hendriks – founder of Pied Piper as well as the compression algorithm that earned them their initial funding from billionaire Peter Gregory – portrayed by Christopher Even Welch who unfortunately passed away from lung cancer in December of last year.  Richard is the group’s anchor, even though he is painfully shy and awkward, this deficit is outweighed only by his brilliance.  Another character worth mentioning is Martin Starr’s ‘Bertram Gilfoyle’ – programmer and Satanist (you read that correctly) who has perhaps some of the best lines in the show (check out the interview clip below).

The combination of offbeat characters and sublime writing ensures that the show never dilutes into mediocre drivel (the fate of many a series), and I think that due to its relatively short eight episode format (at least for this first season at any rate) that it enables the show to maintain its humour and entertainment value to the point where audiences crave more.  Overall, a highly recommended gem of a series, populated with black humour and plenty of ‘geek moments’ more accurate than some would care to admit.  I look forward to seeing how Mike Judge will expand upon the show’s mythos.

How-to | Solve Windows 8.1 “You need to use an account with Administrator privileges” Error

4498112348

Thought it would be a good idea to start off the new how-to section with an article focusing on Microsoft’s latest operating system, given that it has given so many users unwarranted amounts of grief.  I think Microsoft’s first problem was that after seeing how well the Android OS had infiltrated the end-user, they panicked and decided to release a desktop OS optimized for tablets, with the result that desktop users were left with a frustrating, user-unfriendly experience.  However, in light of this short-coming Microsoft released the 8.1 upgrade (approximately 3.6Gigs) for free download on the Microsoft Store provided you have a pre-existing Windows 8 installation.  So that’s all fine and well, until one is accused of not having administrator privileges and is thus unable to download the upgrade.

I’ve encountered this error consistently with the Dell Optiplex units (though not limited to these machines) which are preloaded with Windows 8 Pro OEM.  If you happen to have one of these machines and are experiencing the same issue then the following may help you:

Go to Control Panel >> Programs and Features, on the left hand side you will see a link called “View installed updates”, click on it and scroll down until you find KB2871389 (it will be there since 8.1 requires that 8 be fully updated first.  Uninstall the update and accept the prompt to restart your PC.

Once your PC has rebooted, go back the Windows Store and select the Windows 8.1  update once again, this time you should have no admin issues at all.

Lenovo IdeaTab A3000

3366955569

With so many options to choose from in the tablet-PC market, it can be tough choosing the right device for you.  While Apple’s iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Amazon’s Kindle are well-known to hardened technology enthusiasts and casual users alike, there are many alternatives available, one such alternative being Lenovo’s IdeaTab range.

The IdeaTab A3000 is Lenovo’s mid-range offering, but not to be overlooked as this device has plenty of power beneath its chassis.  With its 1.2GHz quad-core processor, it easily competes with its more popular brethren. Combine that with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and the   PowerVR SGX544 GPU and you have a pretty beefy piece of kit, especially if you intend on gaming with it.

I on the other hand chose the A3000 purely for comics and books, and thanks to the IPS (in-plane switching) display, it was my reader of choice over its Samsung counterpart in the same price range.  While I definitely considered the superior Lenovo S5000, a lack of any sort of memory expansion (no microSD support) meant choosing the A3000 over it, especially when one is able to effortlessly slap in an extra 64GB of space.

1125556789

As one would expect, the A3000 comes preloaded with Android’s Jelly Bean 4.2.2 as well as a multitude of preinstalled apps that people have become accustomed to (Gmail, AccuWeather, Skype and so forth).  However, as is life, one must tweak a device based on their personal preferences and tastes so in my case I replaced the default image viewer with the superior QuickPic and downloaded Moon+ Reader as my reader of choice.  Moon+ is feature-rich and does an excellent job of managing a multitude of formats such as mobi (Kindle files), epub, txt, html and cbr (comics) and facilitates night-time reading.

Since Lenovo doesn’t fall under the aforementioned ‘big 3’, I struggled to find any sort of accessories, covers or protective sleeves for the A3000 however, a quick browse of the Lenovo site enabled me to purchase the Folio Case and Film.

2236667890

The Folio case protects the screen together with a protective film covering the glass. The front section connects to a hard plastic cover that replaces the default back cover.

1126668989

The front of the cover is made of a stylish leather.

The overall look and feel of the A3000 is satisfying.  The device is stylish in its design (available in Black Slate and White Satin) and small enough (11mm (0.43″) thick and weighing in at a mere 345g (0.76 lbs)) to facilitate one-handed reading making it an ideal companion for commuters.  The device’s 3500mAh Li-Polymer battery offers up to 7 hours of WiFi browsing and can remain idle for an impressive 2 weeks before needing recharging.  The A3000 offers a maximum resolution of 1024×600 and manages to produce a sharp, crisp picture and bright colours ideal for reading comics, books and watching movies.  While a resolution of 1024×600 may seem meager, especially in comparison to the iPad 3’s ridiculous resolution of 2048×1536, in terms of a reader and competitor to dedicated readers such as Kindle, the A3000 shines.

Additional features include a 0.3MP front-facing webcam as well as a 5MP rear-facing camera ideal for photos and so forth and apart from WiFi connectivity, the A3000 facilitates dual sim cards (3G/2G + 2G) – an extremely lucrative feature for the device.  All-in-all, I’d recommend the A3000 as a perfect mid-range offering in a flooded tablet-PC market, especially for the budget conscious looking for maximum bang for their buck.  Slim, stylish, functional and fast, the A3000 won’t disappoint.

The Pirate Bay – Pioneer of the File-Sharing Generation

1125666854Up until recently, I wasn’t too knowledgeable on The Pirate Bay, as admittedly I hardly ever use the site, having preferred the newer Kickass Torrents file-sharing site.  However, I’m sure by now everyone has heard of The Pirate Bay – the largest file-sharing site on the planet with over a billion views per month and the focal point of much controversy surrounding breach of copyright laws and various other legal difficulties.   Be that as it may, The Pirate Bay has been around for a decade and continues to grow strong  So why the sudden interest in a service I don’t use?

I have an insatiable interest in learning and technology, so when I came across the documentary film – TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard, I owed it to myself to discover more about this infamous site.  I have no intention of discussing the inner workings behind The Pirate Bay so if the subject interests you then check out the film here.  The Pirate Bay has its roots in Sweden and was founded by Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde.  The general consensus was, as the site’s servers were in Sweden, The Pirate Bay was exempt from America’s laws on copyright and intellectual properties, of course this wasn’t the case and all three founders found themselves embroiled in a lengthy court case.

1123666955The one aspect of the film that I found to be the most interesting (and perhaps distressing), was the amount of time and effort placed onto the court case, the length and resources at which America and Sweden (among others) went to in order to try to convict The Pirate Bay is worrisome.  I say worrisome because it was like watching a trial for America’s most wanted, it’s my opinion that the various law agencies need to reevaluate their priorities.  So much time and effort is being exhausted on a file-sharing issue when there are real threats in the world like human-trafficking and terrorism.  It seems that the older generation fail to realize that as technology changes so do people.  We live in a culture fueled by a need for free information, social media and file-sharing.  Due to this ‘pirate culture’, the film and music industry need to understand that if they want people to buy their products then they need to increase their value.  Increasing the value doesn’t mean increase the price, it means make the product more lucrative for consumers.  The gaming industry has the right idea, sure I can download a cracked version of Killzone 3 but if I wanted that limited edition Helghast mask then I’d have to purchase the game legally (as I did).

File-sharing has become something of a cultural phenomenon and the growing advances in technology make sharing data all the more easier.  File-sharing is usually associated with illicit downloads and while that may be, when you consider that torrent clients can even be installed onto a user’s phone, one needs to embrace the fact that file-sharing is ingrained in our society as much as any other cultural activity.  Another thing that interested me was the idea that the founders themselves were making millions off of The Pirate Bay and that they were an organized and well-funded entity.  However, the fact is that The Pirate Bay founders are just a group of average guys, with a love for technology and a desire to create the largest file-sharing site ever conceived.  The Pirate Bay is funded by advertisements and merchandise, so despite what the authorities think, Gottfrid and co are not the multimillionaire villains they’re perceived to be, especially when you factor in the server and maintenance costs involved in running something like The Pirate Bay.

So yes, in the eyes of the law, The Pirate Bay is an illicit enterprise, and while Gottfrid is indeed imprisoned at this moment (most likely held for his drug usage and other hacking related crimes), file-sharing lives on, so much so that Gottfrid implemented such apps as the PirateBrowser (already downloaded 2.5 million times since its release in August last year) – software designed to circumvent censorship, and is already working on a successor.  In the end it’s all about perspective, when you consider the lengths at which certain software (games mostly) goes to in order to ‘protect itself’ and actually be functional (online validation, mandatory internet connection, DRM protocols and so forth), then it’s no wonder that people have taken to ‘illicit’ file-sharing in order to play the latest games or watch their favourite television series.  In closing, I think that if companies made their product more valuable then they might very well see a decline in file-sharing, then again, there are those who reckon that file-sharing actually helps the industry so who can really say?

Related articles