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Posted on Sep 2, 2016 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 39 – Windows 10 Anniversary Update, new driver policy and more

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 39

Welcome to the August 2016 TWT Newsletter

The 10th of the month again and time for your TWT Newsletter. This month we have some exciting news for Windows 10 users, we cut through the jargon on a new Microsoft policy change regarding drivers and of course have our usual tips and free software picks.

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Windows 10 Anniversary Update is here!
Tip of the Month – Using the Task Manager
Free Utility of the Month – O&O Shutup 10
Windows Store App of the Month – DuoLingo
Savvyfolk – First meetings in the UK
Microsoft’s new driver signing policy – What it means and should you be concerned?

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

In July we published four new tutorials for Microsoft OneNote. This free note-taking utility helps you work smarter and faster no matter how or where you’re working. Use it to take notes for university, for work, or simply to jot down a shopping list, then access your notes anywhere through your PC, smartphone or tablet (even if it’s not a Microsoft device!)

picture Microsoft OneNote – 4 Tutorials

In these tutorials we will take you through setting up OneNote on your PC, taking notes, adding pictures and accessing your notes through the cloud. Click here to get started.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update is here!

It’s now been one whole year since Windows 10 launched and to celebrate Microsoft has pushed out a big update to millions of PCs across the world. If you’re running Windows 10 and haven’t received the anniversary update yet, you can get it by completing the following steps.

1) Open the Settings app, by searching for “Settings”, or swiping in from the right of the screen with your finger and tapping the “All settings” button.

2) From the options now displayed, select “Update and Security”.

3) Now choose “Windows Update” and click on “Check for updates”.

4) “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1607” should appear in the list of available updates and download automatically. For more details, see the Microsoft blog post here.

We’ve discussed some of what’s new in the update in previous newsletters. Last month we did a run-down of some of the new features you could expect. Now that the upgrade is actually in our hands and on our PCs, we can report some other changes that we’ve noticed too.

Cortana has gone through some big changes – Cortana, Microsoft’s search assistant rival to Siri on iPhone/iPad, now works without needing a Microsoft account. She can now work on the lock screen (with your permission) and can send certain notifications to your phone if you install the companion app. If you’re not a fan however, you might not be pleased to know that disabling this feature is now much harder. However, if you set up Cortana with a minimal amount of permissions/information she will work much like the old “search the web and Windows” feature did previously.

Cortana can now send certain notifications to your phone – At the moment this is limited to things like battery notifications, but could be extended to more useful things like a notification when a backup or download was completed, for example.

Extensions are now available for Microsoft Edge browser – Want to add more functionality to your web browser? Before now you were out of luck if your browser of choice was Microsoft Edge, but now this is possible in Edge too. All extensions are added through the Windows store and vetted by Microsoft.

Touch has improved! – One of our biggest complaints on tablet was how the Taskbar got in the way and simply took up valuable screen space while trying to use your tablet. Microsoft have made some improvements to this, you can now set the taskbar to hide when in tablet mode, independent of desktop mode. Unfortunately it’s still rather easy to summon the taskbar by accident when swiping or touching near the bottom of the screen and honestly we’d have to say Windows 8 is still the king of touch screens.

Since lots of things have been changed around, we’ll be updating our Windows 10 tutorials over the coming weeks and months and also pushing out an update to the Windows 10 Superguide.

Tip of the Month – Using the Task Manager

An essential skill for Windows users is to master the use of the Task Manager. When programs stop responding to normal input, the Task Manager can be used to shut them down, saving you from rebooting your computer and allowing you to carry on working with your other programs.

Accessing the Task Manager is really easy, you can either search for “Taskmgr” on the taskbar or Start menu, or, press and hold the Control, Alt and Delete keys together. For a more detailed look at the Task Manager, see this tutorial.

Free Utility of the Month – O&O Shutup 10

Aren’t the new features in Windows 10 great? Isn’t it awesome how we get recommended software directly on our Start menu? How Cortana can read our calendars and remind us of important events? If you’re shaking your head in disbelief, then fear not. Before you jump ship to Linux, try O&O Shutup 10. This software can completely disable recommended apps, telemetry and data collection in Windows 10 and provides a much more comprehensive list of privacy tweaks than those available by default in Windows 10. Microsoft might not like it, but it’s your computer after all!

Keep in mind if you do use this tool, certain apps will stop working. For instance the Windows 10 mail app will no longer be able to connect. For your e-mail needs you can of course use third-party mail apps such as Thunderbird instead.

Download P&O Shutup 10 by visiting this link.

Windows Store App of the Month – DuoLingo

Want to brush up on a foreign language before going away this summer, or maybe swat up before classes start again after the summer break? If so, DuoLingo is a fun way to get started learning the basics of another language. The app supports Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish and English with more languages planned for the future. What’s more it’s totally free, you don’t even need to put up with adverts!

Check the app out on the Windows store by clicking this link.

Savvyfolk – First meetings in the UK

This month we were delighted to meet with the folks behind both SeniorNet New Zealand and Savvyfolk, the new initiative launching here in the UK. We were lucky enough to attend one of Savvyfolk’s presentations, where they explained how their new initiative will work.

Aimed squarely at seniors, Savvyfolk is a new approach to learning and dealing with technology, for a generation that might feel left behind and bewildered by all the new developments. Rather than formal classes, Savvyfolk aims to let people learn at their own pace, taught by their peers, rather than by so-called experts. If you’re frustrated by the kids or grandkids trying to teach you technology, whizzing through icons and windows at a pace you can’t keep up with, then Savvyfolk is for you.

The initiative is only just getting started here in the UK and volunteers and interested parties are desperately needed. If this sounds like something for you, visit Savvyfolk.co.uk today and get in touch.

Microsoft’s new driver signing policy – What it means and should you be concerned?

The Windows 10 anniversary update brought a number of changes to Microsoft’s newest operating system. Under the hood, Microsoft have introduced a small but potentially significant change to how drivers are installed. We’ll cut through the jargon and explain why this change has upset some people.

Firstly, what are drivers? Drivers are software components (programs you load and install onto your computer, or that are pre-installed with Windows) that allow Windows to communicate with any hardware you buy. If you buy a printer, for instance, the driver is the software that lets your PC talk to the printer, in order to send it pages to print.

Secondly, what is a “signing policy?” Digital signatures are a way of proving, or at least giving some assurances that the software you are installing on your PC comes from a trusted source. Just like when you sign a legal document with your signature, digital signatures are designed to be tamper proof and by using complex mathematics, difficult to forge.

Since driver software needs to communicate with the lowest levels of the operating system, installing drivers carries something of a risk. A fraudster could make a driver that purports to improve the performance of your scanner or printer, while actually using the opportunity to install malicious spyware instead. Given that driver software is installed at such a low level, this means it can potentially do serious damage to the PC and evade detection by antivirus software.

Starting with Windows XP, Microsoft began to get stricter about which drivers could be installed. At first, any driver that wasn’t digitally signed would pop up a warning. Then, Windows Vista started blocking unsigned drivers in some versions of the operating system. This got progressively more prohibitive in Windows 7, 8 and 10.

Now, Microsoft announced a new change to the policy to take affect in Windows 10 since the anniversary update.

“Starting with new installations of Windows 10, version 1607, the previously defined driver signing rules will be enforced by the Operating System, and Windows 10, version 1607 will not load any new kernel mode drivers which are not signed by the Dev Portal.”

This decision immediately upset some users, most notably Tim Sweeney from Epic software, a popular games development company, who went to Twitter to say “And, Microsoft just gave itself a monopoly on driver signing, ending 31 years of open Windows hardware support.”

Is this accurate though? To some degree perhaps, but Microsoft’s changes only apply to systems that have secure boot capabilities. Secure Boot is a mechanism that prevents malware installing itself as your PC starts up. This capability is on most new PCs that you can buy off the shelf. It can, however, be disabled. Enthusiasts and power users often disable it as it conflicts with encryption software like VeraCrypt.

The change also only applies to Kernel mode drivers. These are drivers which work at the very lowest level of the operating system (and can therefore cause the most damage). Drivers for something like a USB gamepad do not need to run in Kernel mode.

Why is Microsoft making this change at all? Well if you’d not already guessed, it’s because of malware. Serious malware, such as that designed to intercept logon details while using online banking, or the infamous “cryptolocker” style attacks that hold a users data to ransom, will try to install and embed themselves as deep in the system as possible to avoid the user detecting and removing them. By making this change, Microsoft has unquestionably hardened Windows security.

On the flip-side though, it can be seen as another step to locking down Windows and discouraging open software development. While it’s true malware writers used these mechanisms for their own nefarious ends, there are other hardware and software projects that may legitimately require low-level drivers. One example is the ZFS File System. This software is a special way of recording data to a disc that has extra safeguards against file corruption. It’s useful for archiving and backup because of these extra safeguards. Since this open source software requires low-level drivers to be written, new, strict policies that make it difficult or expensive to develop such drivers may mean that Windows never gets support for this project.

Overall, while clearly this change has upset some, it’s unlikely to affect the majority of Windows users and will in fact make the operating system even more secure for most of us.

That concludes our newsletter for August. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to say thank you to all our readers, new and old for your continued support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th September 2016 for more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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