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Windows 10 Redux

June 30, 2016

With July 29 approaching, time is running out to get your free upgrade to Windows 10, and the approaching deadline means that you can expect to see an escalation in lies, ignorance and nonsense being spread by people who know almost less than nothing. It used to be said that computer marketing was driven by FUD, which stands for "fear, uncertainty and doubt", and the tradition continues every time Microsoft releases a new operating system. It seems that the hysteria and misinformation about Windows 10 might continue until Microsoft releases the next version of the operating system, at which time nonsense about the replacement can start. I wrote something about the things being said about Win 10 in July, 2015.

I was recently alerted to an article about the horrors of Windows 10 on the Cracked web site. As Cracked is a humour publication there is the strong possibility that it could be what the Internet calls a Poe (a parody so good that people believe it), but it seems to have sucked in people who should know better.

You can read "4 Awful Secrets No One Is Telling You About Windows 10" here.

So, what are these "awful secrets"?

#1. They're Practically Forcing It On You

Consider the following quote from the article: "In their February 2016 update, Microsoft went and switched Windows 10 from an optional upgrade to a mandatory upgrade, removing any shred of control you thought you had over your computer".

I have a computer running Windows 8.1. It has automatic updates switched on. It has not been forcibly updated to Windows 10 (although it will be upgraded before July 29). Two of my relatives have computers running Windows 7 Ultimate. As they are very unsophisticated computer users I set up both machines to apply all Windows updates automatically. Neither have been forced to upgrade to Windows 10 (but I'll make a trip and upgrade them before July 29).

So, is this awful secret really awful? No, it isn't, but it must be a secret because apparently it isn't actually happening in a way that can be detected.

#2. They're Uninstalling Your Programs (Including Antivirus) Without Permission

Consider the following quote from the article: "Apparently, the update was uninstalling programs it deemed a security risk. Virus scan software and PC analysis software were examined by Microsoft and removed, which was bad enough. But then there were some innocent programs like Adobe Reader and Adobe's CS Suite that were wiped out".

I have Norton Antivirus on my computer, as well as the malware prevention programs AdAware and Spybot:Search and Destroy. All were still present after the upgrade to Windows 10 (although I had to reinstall Norton because some of the settings had changed for the new operating system – it was still there, it still worked, but Symantec had added a few tweaks for Windows 10). I have Adobe Reader, I have Adobe Creative Suite, both continued to work after the Windows 10 upgrade without any problem. "PC analysis software" like Smart Defrag and Advanced Uninstaller were still there and still working exactly as they had been before.

So, is this awful secret really awful? No, it isn't, but it must be a secret because apparently it isn't actually happening in a way that can be detected.

#3. Windows 10 Watches Everything You Do ... EVERYTHING

There is a recognised psychiatric condition called "paranoia". The brief definition is "an unfounded or exaggerated distrust of others, sometimes reaching delusional proportions. Paranoid individuals constantly suspect the motives of those around them, and believe that certain individuals, or people in general, are 'out to get them'".

People worried about Windows 10's snooping ability should always do the following things:

  • Make sure GPS location is switched off on your mobile phone.
  • When not using your mobile phone, take the battery out. (Sorry, iPhone users – you will just have to put up with Apple's snooping.)
  • Never ask any app or program to tell you anything about the weather, because they will want to know your location.
  • Do not use any mapping or GPS app on your phone or ask Google Maps on your PC for driving directions.
  • When buying anything on Ebay, do not provide a delivery address, specially if it's the same address registered with your credit card.
  • Do not click or comment on anything on Facebook.
  • Do not get home delivery from Dominos or Pizza Hut – go to the store. Also, pay cash, do not use a credit card.
  • Make sure your ISP has not given you a permanent IP address. Either that or only access the Internet using a public terminal at a library, Internet cafe or school. Do not go to the same place more than once per month. If the place has already upgraded to Windows 10 do not under any circumstances use Cortana.
  • Aldi aluminium foil makes a good head covering. it is strong and reasonably priced. Pay cash at the checkout.
  • Stay well away from any operating system that might want to know anything about you, like where you live, your name, your telephone number or your email address. Ones to be avoided include Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Chrome and Android.
  • Never search for anything on the web using Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Also do not use Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook or Yahoo! Mail.
  • Never upload anything from your phone to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or any other place. The file will contain metadata that can identify the phone and its location.
  • See your GP about a referral to a psychiatrist.

My first job out of school was with a federal defence bureaucracy. I had to sign a contract saying that I would not reveal anything about my work or the location of the office. Legally I couldn't tell my mother my phone number or address at work and could not even name my employer. I wonder if they've upgraded to Windows 10 yet.

#4. They're Making You Foot The Bill For Their Server Space

We've already established that the writer is paranoid, but this section indicates that either he is ignorant of how large organisations with millions of users distribute the loads on their servers or he is simply lying. As I assume he is some sort of IT expert that probably rules out ignorance.

Does he really believe that sites with millions of visitors every day, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, Ebay and Facebook, use just one server each to handle the traffic? Does he think that Microsoft should only use one computer to distribute the hundreds of millions of updates every second Tuesday, or Symantec should only have one computer dedicated to distributing daily virus signature updates, or Apple should send out the next OS X version from a single Mac on someone's desk?

Load spreading is an essential aspect of providing acceptable performance when huge traffic loads have to be managed. The comparison is made with torrenting but it is an invalid comparison – yes, when you use BitTorrent to steal download the latest series of "Game of Thrones" it comes from a lot of anonymous computers but I am reasonably certain that all the computers serving me Windows updates are owned and controlled by Microsoft. I wonder if the writer has ever thought about the multiple cores in the CPU inside the computer in front of him. If he has he probably just assumed that Intel is part of the conspiracy.

In summary, the "awful secrets" are the products of the mind of someone who doesn't like Microsoft and will say anything that comes into his head. I notice that he has bashed Windows 10 before, and probably started even before the first test version was released for public testing.

When, not if, you upgrade to Windows 10 here are the things you need to do beforehand. Note that all of these are things that should happen regularly on any well-maintained computer.

  • Back up all the data from all your programs to an external hard drive or a cloud service like OneDrive. (You are already doing this regularly, aren't you?)
  • Locate the distribution media for all the software you use (specially any you have paid for). If it came on CDs or DVDs file them safely somewhere. If the products were downloaded include the files in your backup. Make sure you have the registration codes backed up as well.
  • Uninstall any program you don't actually use, because there's no need to clutter up your system with irrelevant files. Be a bit careful with this and don't uninstall anything unless you know exactly what it is and know you can do without it. Many programs install companion products or necessary components that appear in the "Installed Programs" list. A hint is to sort the list by installation date – if there are entries with the same date as something you know you need, leave them there.
  • Use a free program like Advanced Uninstaller or Advanced SystemCare to do the following:
    • Clean up junk files – broken shortcuts, recycle bin, Windows temporary files, browser caches, all sorts of mysterious stuff in the C:\Users folder, ...
    • Tidy up the Windows registry by removing useless or outdated entries
  • Run CHKDSK to fix any possible disk errors. This is the only thing in this list that you shouldn't be doing at least weekly anyway.

Install the Windows 10 upgrade, paying particular attention to anywhere it asks you to look at options. The link might be grey, in small type or hard to see, but that is where you can turn off all those insecure things you don't necessarily want. This is, of course, good advice when installing anything – look at what the screen says before you click "Next". That way you avoid finding programs on your computer and wondering where they came from.

It's not just when installing software either – I had a client lose an entire day's work because the person doing the daily backup was in a hurry to go home and clicked "Restore" instead of "Backup" and then just kept clicking "Next" on every screen without reading it. Computers generally do as they are told so it's always a good idea to make sure you are telling them to do what you want and not something else.

As always, if you need any help with Windows or other things to do with your IT systems you know where to find me.

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