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January 13th, 2017

img-windows10-170px-op3 Over the past year, Microsoft received major backlash for 'forcing' the Windows 10 update as well as future updates on PC users. Fortunately, the tech leader is taking steps to address customer complaints. This article takes a look at what changes we can expect from Microsoft this coming year.

A patch and a glitch away Users couldn’t escape the glitches in the frequent Windows 10 updates, which caused an array of problems such as frozen systems, broken webcams, and even PCs being unable to secure an Internet connection. In light of the patching dilemma, Microsoft is offering more options to defer updates. In fact, a leaked preview shows a new option to pause updates for up to 35 days via a switch in the Settings menu.

OneDrive placeholders Since the launch of Windows 10, many users have eagerly awaited Microsoft to re-introduce this beloved feature to the operating system’s built-in OneDrive cloud storage service. In Windows 8.1, placeholders (aka Smart files) allowed users to see all their OneDrive files, whether or not they were stored on the device. Making its return in Windows 10 File Explorer when using OneDrive, the feature shows user files stored locally as well as on the cloud.

Owning up to the update fiasco Not only is Microsoft addressing the various complaints it received, but it’s also owning up to some of them. Just before Christmas, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, Chris Capossela, admitted that the company had gone too far when it tried to get Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10. This referred to Microsoft’s decision in early 2016 to change the design for the user prompt for its Get Windows 10 app, the software responsible for scheduling upgrades. The user prompt was altered so that clicking X to close the window causes the user to unknowingly agree to a Windows 10 upgrade. This change puts Microsoft in direct violation of its own user experience guidelines for developers on dialog box design.

“Within a couple of hours of that hitting the world, we knew we had gone too far,” recalled Capossela. “Those two weeks were pretty painful and clearly a lowlight for us.” It was then that Microsoft reversed its decision on tweaking the pop-up, so clicking on X would dismiss the upgrade.

It seems that 2017 is the year that Microsoft will start listening more to its users and addressing their complaints. Maybe: Hopefully this renewed strategy will benefit users sooner rather than frustrate them later. Contact us and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest Microsoft updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 29th, 2016

2016december30_android_cRecently, changes to Microsoft Edge, the built-in web browser for all new Microsoft Windows systems, ended the browser's instantaneous compatibility with Adobe Flash. Many business owners and internet users alike are concerned and frustrated with these unprecedented changes and are wondering what they will mean for them going forward. If you are among those concerned business owners, get to know some of the reasons for these changes and the impact that they may have on you.

The primary purpose behind the recent changes made to Microsoft Edge is to make it more competitive with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Among efforts to do just that is the change to how Adobe Flash works on the Edge browser. Now, instead of Adobe Flash plugins playing and loading immediately when a person navigates a website, the application will be blocked.

An alert will come up near the address bar, letting users know that Adobe Flash has been blocked and will give the option to run the add-on or continue blocking it. For businesses that use Adobe Flash throughout their websites, this can be a frustrating change as visitors will need to take an extra step to access the full website.

However, there are numerous legitimate reasons for these changes to the Microsoft Edge browser. The most important of these issues is the fact that Adobe Flash is a security risk and is easily hackable, making it more likely for information and control to be lost to web users. Another issue is the fact that Adobe Flash is a big drain on battery life for computers and other devices.

The theory is that Adobe Flash is on its way out, and that newer, better systems are on their way in. As of now, Windows Insider users are the only ones with access to these updates, but soon the updates will go global and be made available to all users. In fact, Microsoft plans to eventually automatically load HTML5 web information first without loading Adobe Flash content at all.

Because so many sites use Adobe Flash, this can mean major renovations to existing web content. If you worry about the impact this will have on your business, contact us for immediate help and assistance in maximizing your website usability before these changes go live for all Microsoft Edge users.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 14th, 2016

2016december14_windows_cUpdating Microsoft's Windows 10 to the next major patch can be a time-consuming and computer-slowing endeavor. However, Microsoft has diligently worked to find a solution to this problem. Their latest efforts may just work to quicken the updating process and make all users of Windows 10 very happy.

What Microsoft is proposing to streamline for the Windows 10 update process is a system known as a UUP or a Unified Update Platform. A Unified Update Platform is essentially a large series of changes to Windows 10, all of which occur behind-the-scenes and will not affect overall user experience. These changes will work to reduce the amount of processing power required to update Windows as well as make the updates move faster for Windows 10 users who need to keep things moving along quickly.

This UUP ambition will be accomplished in a number of ways, including significantly shrinking the size of the update files for all devices, and especially, making the Windows phone update process much more streamlined than it currently is. One of the ways Microsoft proposes to streamline and speed up the update process is by sending updates that are device-specific rather than distributing a full bundle of updates together, some of which are not necessary for the device in question.

Currently, Windows 10 updates essentially overhaul the entire version of Windows 10 that users have on their device. This makes the update process easier on Microsoft, but not on users. Instead of this system, the UUP will eventually allow updates to occur only to the specific programs and systems that need updating, leaving the rest of the operating system untouched. Larger system-wide updates will also be much faster and more efficient with the UUP system in place.

Should you have further questions about what this new Windows 10 update process could mean for you and your business, contact us as soon as possible. We can help you with all your operating system needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
November 28th, 2016

2016november28_windows_cIn many years, Windows users have been stuck with the same old Paint software, wondering whether improvements would ever be made. The day for change and innovation has finally come, and Microsoft has recently announced a new version called Microsoft Paint 3D. If you regularly rely on Microsoft Paint for basic graphics and image work, learn more about Microsoft Paint 3D and it’s benefits below.

With the new Microsoft Paint 3D, users will have the opportunity to create both 2D and 3D graphics and images. It is just as easy as it always was to use pen and paintbrush features to draw a 2D image, but now these images can be converted into 3D. There is also a stamp feature that allows a user to add stickers to their 2D creations to make them 3D.

Additionally, just like in the world outside of the computer, the 3D objects in Microsoft Paint 3D can be written on with pencils, pens, or paintbrushes, adding 2D imagery to 3D creations. One of the additional benefits of Microsoft Paint 3D is that the creations that users make on the app can easily be shared on social media. This makes it easier than ever before to put Microsoft Paint creations to use.

With Microsoft Paint 3D, users are also able to take images from their smart phone and transform them to 3D images in Microsoft Paint 3D. Even further, if you have a 3D printer, you can actually bring the 3D creations from your app to life.

All these new innovations make Microsoft Paint 3D an exciting development in the Microsoft product offerings. This new version of Microsoft Paint will be made available with the latest updated version of Windows 10 Creator's Studio and should be released early in 2017. If you are ready to get started with this program or want more information about what else the Microsoft Creator’s update has in store for you, contact us as soon as possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
November 11th, 2016

2016november11_windows_cOne of the best things about Windows 10 is all the features that came with it originally as well as the new features coming out. But these updates were revealed so subtly and sneakily that few people know of them. Nonetheless, they have many fantastic benefits. Find out more about the new Windows 10 features below.

Groove Music Maker

One of the biggest Windows 10 features that Microsoft sneakily revealed for is a new program known as Groove Music Maker. Presumably designed to compete with Apple's Garageband application, this program allows users to create computer-generated music by using the program’s own digital instruments or by recording their own voice or instrumental work and adding sound effects. Sure, that may not be particularly earth-shattering for most SMBs, but maybe you want to experiment with a new jingle for your local ads?

Windows Store

The Windows Store will also be greatly improved with the ability to make in-app purchases directly from the Windows Store homescreen. This streamlines the experience for users who wish to purchase apps, movies, or music quickly and easily. Make sure that if you have any Windows store apps, they’re optimized for this development.

Microsoft Edge Browser

The Microsoft Edge browser will also have major improvements as well. The tab viewing and browsing process will be made easier by allowing users to set browser tiles aside for later access and use. On top of this feature, Microsoft Edge users will also be able to use scrollable tab previews that let the user get a look at what page is on each tab before they toggle back to that tab. Both these features make the web browsing process easier and help to make Microsoft Edge competitive with the features of other popular web browsers.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender, the built-in security system for Windows 10, will also be improved in these new features and updates. The software will be more user-friendly and include virus protection, firewall, computer performance features, and much more.

Windows 10 Basics

The entire base of the Windows 10 platform will be enhanced as well. Users will be able to pick up where they stopped working from other devices linked to the computer. This streamlines the user experience and can prevent information and data loss. The quick actions menu will also be adjusted so that users can more easily perform necessary actions. The accent color scheme will also be made customizable, and live tiles will be introduced to the Start Menu feature, making it easier to access your latest photos, documents, and recently used apps.

Knowing these are some of the upcoming features that Microsoft plans to add to Windows 10, you can now see how these changes will benefit you and your user experience with Windows 10. For more information about Windows 10 as it is now or will be in the future, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
October 27th, 2016

2016october27_windows_cWindows 10 may be widely regarded as a massive improvement on Windows 8, but Microsoft’s latest operating system has its share of imperfections as well. Fortunately, Microsoft has issued important patches to remedy security vulnerabilities, problems with the Windows store crashing, and a myriad of other issues. Read on for more information about the flaws and how these patches will help solve them.

Internet Explorer

In its Windows 10 announcement, Microsoft clarified that it found four zero-day flaws, which are vulnerabilities that have never been seen before. Of the four, the most concerning is the one that allows cyberattackers to remotely take control of your machine with full administrative rights via Internet Explorer. All that is required to deploy the malware is visiting a website with the corresponding code.

Office

Microsoft Office also has a critical flaw that grants attackers the ability to corrupt memory and abuse privileges inherent to the user who opened the mischievous Office document. By amending how documents are saved and how code within a document is executed, Microsoft believes users will be much safer from email attachment schemes.

Exchange Server

For companies with on-premise servers, Microsoft Exchange Server patches need special attention. Without them, a malicious email could grant cyberattackers the ability to remotely insert and execute commands within the server. Patch MS16-108 provides cumulative updates and changes the way hotfixes and service packs are delivered. Lastly, it tries to ensure Microsoft Exchange Server follows a scheduled delivery model.

Microsoft Graphics

This security update for the Microsoft Graphics component of Windows 10 is considered ‘critical’ because of its presence throughout the entire operating system. Patch MS16-106 removes vulnerabilities in graphics processing protocols that would allow attackers to remotely control and exploit target systems.

If your desktops have not automatically updated themselves, users can trigger a manual update by opening the Settings window, selecting Update & Security, and finally Windows Update. Once there, simply select Check for Updates and follow the prompts to download and install the necessary updates.

Managing one machine is hard enough. If you're struggling to keep an entire office up and running, chances are you feel like you’re treading water in steel-toed boots. For total monitoring and maintenance of all your Windows machines, call us today -- we’ll throw you a lifeline and pull you aboard.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
October 12th, 2016

2016october12_windows_cDespite a varied range of software such as Office 365 and Azure, Windows remains Microsoft’s darling. And although the most recent version has achieved widespread adoption and critical acclaim, its creators are hungry for more installs and more users. The try and lure more users, Microsoft has released a new tool to analyze and report on potential pain points for company-wide migrations to Windows 10. Read on for all the details.

Named the Windows Upgrade Analytics Service (WUAS), Microsoft is gifting administrators and service providers with tools very similar to those it uses to do its own bulk installs. By gathering data on multiple devices, applications, and hardware drivers on a network simultaneously, massive disruptions and troubleshooting events can be avoided entirely.

If any of these variables are customized or outdated, they may not work in a Windows 10, derailing a focused migration workflow. Available right now, this service does more than just inventory your workstations, it also uses the data it has gathered to guide administrators step-by-step through the most efficient order of upgrades possible.

If all your IT components are uniform and compatible with the most recent Windows 10 service pack, it will recommend a straightforward migration. However, if you have pockets of older, or more specialized machines, WUAS may suggest splitting the process up by upgrading those machines first to smooth the process.

Microsoft delivers the features of this service through its cloud-based Operations Management Suite. Make sure it's installed on your machines and add ‘Upgrade Analytics’ from the ‘Solutions Gallery.’ From there, a simple wizard will guide you one item at a time through the four-step process.

Windows gets several updates per year, and it's a waste of company resources for your staff to be stuck waiting for their machines to get back up and running while they update. Why not just outsource the entire process to professionals who will finish the task in a fraction of the time? Our managed services come with a flat fee, regardless of whether you want to upgrade all or just some of your workstations. Don’t believe us? Just call today to find out more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 23rd, 2016

2016september23_microsoftwindowsnewsandtips_cMicrosoft has equipped Windows 10 users with a comprehensive set of tools to get their action center settings under control -- even if most users don’t know it. Unfortunately, most desktops are coming with more software and features that result in more notifications, without ever providing users the opportunity to personalize their desktop and get the stream of information under control. If you’ve reached the point of oversaturation, we’ve got all the information you need to manage your action center right here.

Overarching action center settings

The place to start is customizing system-wide notifications settings. To view these, click on the Cortana icon on your taskbar, type ‘Notifications,’ and click ‘Notifications & actions settings.’ From here you can turn off alerts entirely, adjust those on the lock screen, or customize the alerts for core functions such as alarms and incoming calls.

Settings for individual applications

If you’re interested in taking a far more nuanced approach to your notifications, there are options to create rules on an app-by-app basis. At the bottom of the ‘Notifications & actions settings’ screen is a section titled ‘Get notifications from these senders.’ At first glance it may look as though you can only turn alerts completely off or on for these apps, but that’s not the case.

By clicking on any of the items in this list, you can open a new window full of more graded notifications options. From here, users can specify lock screen, sound, and priority settings for individual software.

Closing the blinds

For users who have no interest whatsoever in the Windows 10 action center, there is a way to banish it entirely. Open Cortana again and search ‘Notification area.’ Halfway down the page, click the menu titled ‘Turn system icons on or off.’ Toggling the Action Center option (third from the bottom) allows you to remove the icon from your taskbar altogether.

While you’re at it, why not take this philosophy one step further? Click the back arrow to return to the ‘Notification area’ window and this time choose ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar.’ Here you can choose which apps to remove from your taskbar entirely, eliminating any annoying icons that change to alert you of distracting notifications.

Everyone is different. If artists have tools unique to their style, why shouldn’t the tools of your trade be tailored to your preferences? Our paintbrush is technology, and we’d love to show you how we work by helping you achieve new levels of productivity and efficiency on your Windows machine. Get in touch with us today to speak with one of our tech-savvy specialists about your technology goals.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 7th, 2016

2016September7_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_CThe heart of a lady is not easily won; a man can’t rely on his looks or wallet to make a girl fall head over heels. He must charm his way into her heart. Let’s say that a computer user is the woman, and that ransomware, the man, is the dreamboat that has worked his way through all the woman’s defenses. How? He looked the part. This is how ransomware weasels its way into IT -- because it doesn’t seem to pose a threat. Beware of Fantom, the most recently detected ransomware that is a master at deception.

AVG security researcher Jakub Kroustek recently spotted Fantom coded atop an EDA2, a ransomware-building kit that was open-sourced but eventually taken down. EDA2 contained certain flaws that allowed researchers to obtain decryption keys from its C&C server, yet these flaws have since disappeared, indicating that Fantom coders might have found and fixed them before anyone else had a chance to.

Very little is known as to how Fantom is distributed. As for the method of deployment, cybercriminals plant the file onto the target’s computer via spam email or exploit kits. Fantom-infected files are named criticalupdate01.exe; they utilize a “Windows Security Update” to prompt targets into running the file.

After activation, the ransomware starts by locking the user’s screen while displaying fake Windows Update graphics, complete with a fully-functioning percentage-based loading timer that mirrors the original Windows Update screen. However, beneath this pleasant facade, Fantom is encrypting your files right before your eyes. Luckily, the temporary lock screen is removable before it reaches 100% -- simply press CTRL+F4. Unfortunately, the encryption process remains intact.

The MalwareHunterTeam states, “The ransomware uses classic ransomware encryption by locking files using an AES-128 key and then encrypting this key with a dual RSA key, with the private key stored on the crook's server, and a public key left on the user's PC.”

In order to retrieve the private key to unlock your files, you must contact the perpetrators by email. The email address is listed in the ransom note that appears after the process of encryption is complete. Fantom displays ransom notes in the form of HTML and TXT files, while changing the user’s desktop with a custom screenshot that lists the contact details. Lastly, after completing all its operations, Fantom cleans after itself by running two batch scripts wiping all the installation files clean.

Ransomware isn’t new, but the ways that cybercriminals utilize them are. Who would’ve thought that the ever so familiar Windows Update window has fallen prey to malicious intent? Pretend that you’re the Little Red Riding Hood and that the wolf is the ransomware that cybercriminals have disguised as your grandmother. They no longer wait to trap you, instead, they wait for you to walk straight into one instead.

The issue of ransomware is as extensive as it is meticulous. If you have any questions about Fantom or would like to request more information, feel free to get in touch with us! Give us a call or send us an email. Our dedicated staff are more than happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
August 19th, 2016

2016August19__MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_CAs subversive as smartphones may be, we’ll likely never be able to completely get away from desktop computing. And when you’re stuck hammering away on the keyboard, how do you mitigate the stream of texts and notifications coming in on your phone? In a win for PC computing, you can now receive and respond to the majority of your Android notifications from any Windows 10 PC. We’ve explained how this works and how to achieve it in more detail here.

The first thing you need to do is to wirelessly pair your Android phone with your Microsoft desktop. From the Google Play store, download and install the Cortana app and sign into the Microsoft account you use on your computer. Once you’ve signed in, select the Menu button in the upper-left-hand corner and select Settings. After that, select the option for ‘sync notifications’ and toggle which you would like to see on your desktop.

Notifications are broken down into four categories: calls, texts, battery alerts, and third-party apps. Although an option to answer the phone from your computer hasn’t been added yet, you can read and respond to text messages. When deciding on third-party app settings, remember the goal is to manage your interactions, not create more. Make sure to disable any notifications that will create annoying redundancies like doubled-up Facebook alerts between your Android pairing and previously-enabled desktop notifications.

And just like that, you’re all set. As long as you have Cortana enabled on your desktop, all your Android alerts will automatically display in your Windows 10 Action Center. There is no need to interact with the app on your mobile device, and we recommend removing the shortcuts from the clutter of your homescreen. Gone are the days of needlessly checking your phone every time it vibrates, just to find out it’s another telemarketer or unimportant Instagram notification.

As technology reaches the hands of more and more people, and hardware and software options increase exponentially, there are few problems that can’t be fixed with a little ingenuity. Our staff has that ingenuity, and they’re waiting to impart it on you and your business. Call us from your phone or text us from your desktop. Regardless of how you reach us, don’t wait for more problems to sneak up on you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows