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Posted on Jun 28, 2018 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 61 – More updates more problems? Is it time for Microsoft to take a more measured approach?

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 61

Hi, welcome to the June 2018 TWT Newsletter.

June means Summer is in full swing for many of us, though the unpredictable British weather has taken a turn for the worse today so I’m firmly back at my desk for writing this one. This month we ask, has rapid feature and upgrade delivery been right for Windows 10, or is it time for Microsoft to take a more sober approach? With Facebook seemingly never out of the news for using and abusing our private information, we look at some drama-free alternatives to the monolithic social network. Plus we have our regular tips and free utility too. 

Important! A number of our subscribers have had difficulty receiving our newsletter. At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we never send out unsolicited e-mails. To make sure your TWT newsletter reaches your inbox, please add topwindo@top-windows-tutorials.com to your contacts, buddy list or white list.

In this months issue:-

More updates more problems? Is it time for Microsoft to take a more measured approach?
Tip of the month – Get extra storage for your laptop
Free utility of the Month – qBittorrent
Windows Store App of the Month – Aphalina Designer
Drama free alternatives to Facebook

 

More updates more problems? Is it time for Microsoft to take a more measured approach?

Microsoft’s Windows 10 April 2018 update has now rolled out to more than half of the Windows 10 PCs in the world. We took a look at the new features in the update in our May 2018 newsletter

We would love to tell you that this time, finally, it was all plain sailing for the update, but if we did that we’d unfortunately be lying. While the update went smoothly on most of our desktop PCs, our little Windows tablet had a torrid time, with broken apps and poor performance for weeks after the upgrade. After several frustrating attempts to fix the machine, we resolved to reset the operating system entirely, but lucky for us Microsoft pushed out another patch that solved the problems we’d been having just in time. If this tablet had been a machine we relied on for work, the situation would have been quite dire.

The problems we experienced ourselves were far from unusual and, in the grand scheme of things, were quite tame compared to the issues that many users experienced. Here are just a handful of complaints we found from the web.

Many systems were stuck with a black screen after upgrading, with no way to access apps or the internet. On some systems this was due to a conflict with security software, but on other machines there was no clear cause.

Some machines suffered poor performance or freezing when using Google Chrome. Others had performance issues using Cortana or other apps.

The new timeline feature we reported on in the last newsletter reportedly caused Windows Explorer to crash on a number of machines.

If you’re still having issues with the April update, the first thing to do is check again for updates. Search for “Check for updates” on the Start menu or launch the settings app and choose “Update and Security”. Microsoft have been frantically patching the various issues that have come up and it’s possible that you may simply need to install another update to the update (yes really).

If that doesn’t help, or you’re not able to access the settings app, Windows Central has a useful article here that has some fixes for the most commonly encountered issues.

Windows 10 was a dramatic departure from previous versions of Windows as far as updates were concerned. Those of you who have been using Windows since the XP days may well remember how there were three major updates or “service packs” to the operating system throughout its long life time. Some of these service packs brought new features, while some (for instance the last one) were simply security updates. For Windows 10, Microsoft have piled on new features every few months, with several major updates since the operating system launched.

Getting new features is fun, and sometimes useful, but things are going wrong far too often for Microsoft and Windows 10. If this particular article feels familiar it’s because we have been here before, several times, to report on an update process that didn’t run smoothly.

Is it time for Microsoft to take a step back from such frequent feature updates and focus solely on stability and performance? Certainly many IT professionals are beginning to question if this would be a more sensible approach. Popular Windows blogger Paul Thurrott criticised the rapid roll-out of the update as “Irresponsibly worse” (than last time). Gregg Keizer from computerworld.com said that “Windows 10 update strategy is showing strains” and called for one major upgrade a year, with 2 years support for each major release.

The days of the PC being the only computing device in homes are long gone. Now smartphones, tablets and even Smart TVs are competing for users time and attention. PCs are not going anywhere, because they are still far and away the best devices for productivity. When work needs to be done, a tablet or phone usually simply won’t do. If your computer is critical for work, then the last thing you need is a Windows update rendering your device unusable when you have a deadline looming. Users in a corporate environment or those running Windows 10 Professional edition can use the advanced update options to defer or postpone certain updates, but if you’re running Windows 10 home you’re unfortunately out of luck.

We believe Microsoft should change their focus and concentrate on polishing the Windows 10 experience to make it as fast and stable as possible. Most of us are happy with the features we have (and given Windows huge catalogue of software available for Windows, any feature that isn’t present can usually be added by simply searching for an app). The rapid development of Windows 10 to this point has been a wild ride, but now it’s time for a more serene cruise please, Microsoft. 

 

Tip of the Month – Get extra storage for your laptop

When desktop PC users run out of space, they can just buy a new hard drive and install it in the tower. It’s not so easy for laptop users of course. Some laptops do have dual hard drive bays, but most of the smaller models do not. Sure, you could buy a regular external hard drive, but having a bunch of extra cables and boxes attached to your machine is not terribly convenient if you like to carry your laptop around with you.

If you urgently need more space and don’t want to sacrifice portability, there are a number of super slim USB drives on the market that are ideal. The Sandisk Ultra Fit, for instance, is so small it can fit in a laptops USB port without sacrificing portability or convenience. These drives are available in capacities of up to 256GB, ideal for installing a couple of extra games, movie files or some tunes to help pass the time while you’re on the road. Remember that USB drives may be significantly slower than your laptops internal drive, so plan accordingly and try to use the USB storage space for data and your laptops hard drive/SSD drive for programs if possible.

 

Free Utility of the Month – qBittorrent 

Bittorrent is a popular file sharing protocol on the internet. Occasionally you may come across a torrent link or a magnet link for a larger app or program that you’d like to download. Unfortunately, Bittorrent is not supported by Windows without installing additional software. Fortunately, said software is free. There are a number of Bittorrent programs available for Windows, but our program of choice is qBittorrent. qBittorrent is fast, stable and reliable and can help you download any torrent files you might come across.

Grab your copy of qBittorrent by visiting this page.

 

Microsoft store app of the month – Aphalina Designer

We’ve featured art and drawing apps in our Windows/Microsoft Store app section before, but Aphalina Designer is a little different. Rather than being designed to emulate a paintbrush and canvass, this powerful app is geared toward working with geometric shapes or vectors. Where accuracy is important, computer aided design packages use vector graphics to help build everything from blueprints to magazine adverts. Since vector shapes are defined by their mathematical dimensions, rather than being made up of pixels or dots, they can be resized to any size without degrading.

If you’re looking for a Windows tablet app to help you work with CAD or vector graphics, give Aphalina Designer a whirl by visiting the store page here.

 

Drama free alternatives to Facebook

Be it for data breaches, misuse of personal information or simply for making our children miserable and vain, Facebook seems to be constantly in the firing line of late. If you’ve had your fill of the seemingly ubiquitous social network, here are a few drama free ways you can interact with your friends online. All of these services will work on your PC or your phone/mobile device, making them convenient to use whether you’re out and about or at your desk or laptop at home. 

Telegram – Instant messaging services have a chequered history. Go back 20 years and the choices were AOL Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN or ICQ. While most of those older services have closed down, the choices remain as numerous as ever, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) taking the lions share of users. The Telegram service has been slowly gaining in popularity over the years, especially with those users who are disillusioned with Mark Zuckerberg’s social network empire.

Telegram is first and foremost an instant messaging program, but one that lets you easily share photos and videos too. You can also create private channels or group chats, allowing you to communicate with the people important to you without anyone else wading into your timeline. The service is fast and reliable, with very little down time over the past couple of years. 

Drama rating – Telegram allows  you to create private groups. These groups are invisible to anyone who is not a member. You can create groups for your family, your friends or interest group or for any reason at all. Unlike Facebook you won’t get interaction from friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends of friends who don’t understand what privacy settings are. This creates a less stressful environment and one that’s easier to control without wading through pages of privacy settings.

Privacy rating – Telegram claims chats between users are entirely private and encrypted. Several security researches have disputed this claim however. If you’re interested in keeping your conversations private from the likes of advertisers or companies, Telegram may well be sufficient. If you’re planning on making waves against a government, however, we wouldn’t be so sure!

To learn more about Telegram, visit the home page here.

Wickr – Once billed as SnapChat for grownups, Wickr has failed to make as big a splash in the social networking scene as its rival, but still boasts millions of happy users. The app allows you to send fully encrypted secret messages, pictures and files that will automatically self-destruct after a certain time. This makes Wickr ideal for more sensitive information, such as discussing tax or medical matters with a partner or family member.

Drama rating – The free version of Wickr supports only 1 on 1 messaging, so any drama stays between you and your friend.

Privacy rating – Wickr has consistently scored high on even the most stringent of privacy tests, with the EFF giving the service five stars out of five in it’s 2017 “Who Has Your Back” privacy report.

To learn more about Wickr, visit the home page here.

Mastodon – Want to stick it to the man and make your own social network where you call all the shots and even run the servers? We’re guessing that most of you said “no not really, that sounds like a lot of work”. Unfortunately you might be right, but if you’re determined, give Mastodon a shot. Rather than one central server, like Facebook and Twitter, Mastodon users can create their own, or simply join one maintained or created by a friend. If that’s all too much hassle, the mastodon.social server, or “instance”, is one place you can start.

Drama ratingMastodon attracts users who are put off by the restrictions of Twitter and Facebook, so it can be an anarchic place with plenty of drama. If you’re looking for a tamer version of Twitter, you will need to carefully select the communities you join or create one entirely of your own.

Privacy rating – No advertising, no data mining, no walled gardens. There is no central authority, at least that’s what the website claims. Of course, you’re trusting the person or persons running the instance of Mastodon you connect with to fully protect your privacy as per the terms of use.

Flickr – Sharing photos can be fun, but now more and more users are moving away from Facebook, posting photos to the social network can make them difficult to access for users who now shy away from Facebook’s servers. Luckily there are many alternative places to share photos online. Flickr remains one of our favourites. Beloved by photographers, there are few limits on the size and number of photos you can upload to your free account. With a click of a button these images can be shared anywhere, by e-mail, instant message or, of course, onto other social networks.

Drama rating – Flickr photos are public, but the service tends to be used more by photographers and enthusiasts than people simply wanting to upload selfies and holiday snaps. Because of this, there’s relatively little in the way of drama in the comments sections on the site, at least for now.

Privacy rating – Flickr is currently owned by Yahoo, who don’t have the best track record when it comes to data breaches and handling of private data. The website was recently sold to a company called SmugMug, but it’s unclear what their plans are for the future of the site.

To learn more about Flickr, visit the home page here.

As you can see, there are lots of good alternatives to Facebook that you can switch to any time you choose, the only question is, can you convince all your friends to make the switch too?

 

That concludes the newsletter for June. On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th July 2018 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it 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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