Passwords and Security Part 2

Last month, we looked at why it’s important to use a different password on every website and your homework was to sort out all those post-its and get your existing passwords organised in an address book – A for Amazon, G for Gmail but not everything under C for Computer…

So let’s look at what makes a good password. Which of these is harder for a hacker to crack:



Most people instinctively opt for the first: it’s hard to remember, a weird mix of upper- and lower-case, plus there’s numbers and symbols. It must be more secure, surely?


We talked last month about ‘hashed passwords’ – the magic numbers that your passwords are turned into and that are stolen when a website is hacked. The hackers have computers running round the clock, trying out random strings of characters and working out the number that translates to. It’s believed that, at the moment, any password with fewer than 12 or 13 characters has already been calculated.

One of my favourite websites – I should get out more – is

There, you can enter a password and see how long it would take one hacker with one computer to crack it. I’ll save you the trouble… EDe5u2&kvS would take about six years. Not bad, but remember that the hackers have already been working at this for years with more than one computer so, effectively, that’s already been guessed.

StapleBananaHamster? 318 Trillion Years. Staple£Banana24Hamster? 252 Sextillion years. That’s 252 followed by 21 zeroes.

These numbers are estimates and some combinations of words will fare less well, e.g. Manchester followed by United, but the most important thing is length. So two or three unrelated words, upper- and lower-case, numbers (family birthdays?) in between, maybe a symbol, and you’ve got a reasonable password. Looking round my palatial office in Oapc Towers, with magazines, books, boxes of stuff, Useful24Panasonic!Carpet comes out to one octillion years, which is secure enough.

But how to remember these very secure passwords? You don’t have to. Your computer will do it for you and fill it in again when you visit the website. Some people worry that this weakens their security and it does. But the chance of an easy to guess password being stolen in a website hack is much greater than the chance of the passwords being stolen from a correctly updated home computer, and using the same password everywhere means that only has to happen once. But don’t forget to update your Password Book whenever you change a password, because if your computer should suffer a disk failure, those passwords are very likely gone.

I should say at this point that you should only store passwords on your computer if you can trust everyone who accesses it. If you share it with kids or significant others whom you don’t want to automatically access your credit cards, a separate login for each of you and a master password to keep things secure seems like a good idea.

More secure and, in these days of using a PC, phone or tablet to access the same information in different places, more convenient is a password manager program, such as LastPass or Keepass. These, protected by a very secure password, will generate passwords automatically and fill them in again as required. It means you can routinely use a 20 or 30 character password like Z2$TXec3zK4PasmvQlTyE3d6Q$8Um1 and not have to write it down or remember it. They can also work across devices, so you can save a password on your PC and fill it in on your phone.

Naturally, these services make a very tempting target for villains but I still use one because the alternative is inevitably not so secure.

So, now that you’ve got all your passwords organised in your new address book, it’s time to start visiting websites and changing the old short passwords for nice, long, secure ones. While you’re there, make sure that the contact and security information is up-to-date. These days, most websites use a mobile phone number or an email address to send a code which allows them to confirm it’s you and so allows you to easily change your password.

One of my favourite ways of spending time with customers is trying to persuade a website to send a way of resetting a password, when the two alternatives are an email address that hasn’t existed since 2006 and a mobile phone number that was changed nine years ago, belonging to the customer’s daughter…

Next month, I’ll look at a way of making your log-ins even more secure, that many of you may already be using.

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Good News!

Researchers have discovered the biggest security threat to your online activities.

Bad news: it’s you.

When they think about ‘hackers’, most people imagine Igor in Russia, banging away at his keyboard and trying to guess what their password might be. The reality is very different. When you first sign up to a website, you’re asked to make up a password. The password you type in is turned into a unique number (a ‘hashed password’) which the website stores. Next time you log in, the same process happens and, if the two numbers match, the website knows you’ve typed in the correct password.

Most ‘hacks’ involve someone sneaking into a major company’s computers and stealing the entire database of customers’ detail, such as the three billion customers whose details were stolen from Yahoo in 2013. Those details “may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers”, according to news articles at the time.

Hackers have computers running round the clock, typing in random passwords and listing the numbers they equate to, so that it’s possible to produce a list of the numbers and the corresponding words. In fact, even Wikipedia has a list of the top 10000 passwords. Particularly worrying is the fact that 91 per cent of all passwords used are in the top 1000 positions on that list.

So why does it matter?

These days, personal information is valuable: it allows you to prove you are who you say you are for banking, shopping, and all manner of transactions. So imagine the fun the crooks could have with the information stolen from Yahoo, which “may have included” everything you need to convince almost anyone that they were you, right down to your grandmother’s maiden name and the name of your first pet!

I’m regularly called out to help people who’ve been hacked or just forgotten their passwords. The phrase I hear most often is ‘I usually use…’ followed by a six-letter word and maybe a number. It’s the password they use everywhere. The world would be a simple place if we had one key that opened our car, house, shed, business, garage… Of course, if someone were to steal that key, suddenly you’ve lost everything. And yet three-quarters of the customers I visit use the same password or two on every website.

If someone breaks in to your email – and, in case you didn’t know, Yahoo ran BT email for years and in some cases still does – they can find out the banks you use, the companies you deal with, even what you’ve ordered recently. Your Amazon account reveals your postal address, phone numbers, email address and the expiry date and last digits of your credit cards. From your email, they can find out the banks and credit cards you deal with.

Put all this information together and it’s very easy to ring someone and pretend to be a bank with an urgent query – someone’s trying to break into your account and you must take immediate action – and relieve you of your hard-earned cash.

I’ll be talking about passwords and the like in more detail soon but, for now, it’s time for some homework. I’d recommend getting an old-fashioned address book – the one with A to Z tabs down the side. Grab all those post-its and bits of paper you’ve got in that pile and start writing them in the book. G – Gmail, Write down the password you use, in pencil so that you can change it easily, and the date you changed it last (or an educated guess).

When you’ve done that, we’ll have another look at passwords: what makes a good one, how to change them, how to massively improve your security, and other ways to avoid forgetting them in the first place.

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Goodbye, Windows 7. We’ll miss you.

January 14th 2020 is a sad day. It’s the day that Windows 7 reaches its ‘end of life’ and I feel like I’m losing an old friend. But what does ‘end of life’ mean, and how does it affect you? Read on…

Until Windows 10 came along, Microsoft supported each Windows version for ten years, meaning that for ten years Microsoft would fix errors that have been found and, crucially, patch the security holes that villains use to break in.

You may remember back in 2017 when the NHS and many other businesses were brought to their knees by a ‘malware’ infection. As the BBC pointed out a few months later:

“…all of this could have been avoided if security patches had been applied to protect the Windows 7 systems common throughout the NHS.”

Those really annoying ‘Windows is installing updates. Don’t turn off your computer’ messages have been a sign all along, telling you that the latest security features are being installed and updated.

So what happens in January?

Absolutely nothing. Not at first. But each month that goes by, for the 36% of computers still using it, the chances increase that a new way of breaking in to Windows 7 will be found and, if it is, you’re on your own. It’s possible that an up-to-date antivirus will help, but most of the computers affected in 2017 had one of those and were still compromised. In a nutshell, it’s no longer safe to use Windows 7 in two months time, unless it’s disconnected from the internet: no browsing, no email, no shopping, no banking.

What to do next

It’s time to make a difficult decision. Many old Windows 7 computers have the power to be updated to Windows 10 and run it perfectly well although, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Windows 10. It is certainly the most secure Windows there’s been but I don’t like its version of ‘privacy’, the way it installs programs you haven’t asked for (unless you delve deep into Settings) and the way it introduces a completely new version every six months, changing how things work and in some cases stopping things working completely: I’ve just had a month of laptops where the internet has stopped working and sometimes the mouse too. It’s a fixable problem: download a further update, over the internet that you can’t use…

Some machines might struggle with Windows 10 but still be perfectly capable – along with their newer, more powerful relatives – of running an alternative, such as Linux Mint. Mint is a very Windows-like system for the average computer user. It’s free, secure and for a typical user works more like Windows 7 than Windows 10 does. It’s fair to say that, under the skin, it’s a very different beast but I’ve been recommending it as an alternative for some years and I’m now finding my Linux customers recommending it to their friends and neighbours.

Mint still allows you to shop online, read your email, edit and create Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, edit your photos and videos, use Skype, and do most of things normal people do with their PCs. I installed it for my wife a few years back – not something I would do lightly! – and she has described it as ‘Windows with the annoying bits removed’. I can say no more.

Otherwise, there is always the option of buying a new Windows 10 PC or an Apple device or even a cheaper device like a Google Chromebook. Your system can usually be changed over without losing any of the important ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated since your Windows 7 machine was a baby in 2009.

Please get in touch if you need help (although we do not sell computers ourselves we can advise on suitable options).

Posted in Linux, Windows 10, Windows 7 | Comments closed

Shop around for insurance, energy and phones

A little while back, someone said to me, “I’m too old to change my gas supplier”.

Sadly, loyalty does not pay. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that insurance firms specifically target loyal customers with big premium increases, knowing they are less likely to switch. And according to Citizens Advice, customers who stay loyal to their mobile, broadband or insurance providers are paying as much as £1,000 a year more than those who shop around. Gas and electric suppliers also rely on the fact that many customers don’t search the markets for cheaper deals, even when their prices are going up.

Guardian Money investigated a home insurance renewal letter sent to a couple in their nineties by one of the major insurers, demanding a 20% increase, to £579. When the couple’s son went to their online site and posed as a new customer, the premium was just £108. A woman in her 70s found that Saga was charging her four times the rate available on a comparison site.

In discussions with my own computer customers I have found numerous examples like this, especially with long-standing customers of some of the biggest names.

To quote just a couple of examples, I recently helped a customer of BT and TalkTalk save more than £700 a year on his phone and internet bill without leaving BT, and a lady who had just reached 80 saved £500 on her car insurance after switching from a broker who ‘always treats me like family’ to a household-name insurer.

It’s not difficult to switch, as long as you have a PC, laptop, phone or tablet with internet access. You can find out more information online before you start, including details of comparison sites and the order to visit them in order to save the most. Realistically, if you can save £200 off your energy bill in twenty minutes, you might decide it’s not worth spending another hour to shave off £12 more, but the sites below will show you how.

Useful sites:

The addresses below will take you directly to some of the comparison sites. They’re in no particular order, except that I find the opera singer marginally more annoying than the meerkats.

Be aware that not all comparison sites include all available options.

If you’re nervous or unsure about doing any of this, give us a ring and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how easy it is and, if you feel you need one, arrange a visit to help you through the first time. Once you’ve done it once, it’s even quicker a year or two down the line.

But, please, do something.

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New email scam

There’s a new email scam doing the rounds, which has tripped up three of my Heacham customers in one day (to my knowledge). I’m preparing a series of articles for the website on online safety, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know.

The email sender (probably a random individual who’s had his own email hacked) claims to have received a file of your personal information in error and, ‘as a law-obedient citizen’, is warning you about the leak. He attaches a file which he claims contains the information. Actually it contains a set of commands which, if opened in Microsoft Word, will either steal your passwords and send them to the miscreant or encrypt all your files and demand money before you’ll be able to access them. The text of the email follows this format:

Good day to you, name!

I am bothering you for a very urgent occasion. Allhough we are not familiar, but I have considerable ammount of information about you. The fact is that, most likely by mistake, the info about your account has been emailed to me.
For example, your address is:
first line of address
nr Kings Lynn
PE31 7postcode

I am a law-obedient citizen, so I decided to prevent may have been hacked. I attached the file – that I received, that you could learn what info has become accessible for attackers. File password is – 6306

I look forward to hearing from you,

I’ve preserved the anonymity of the lady or gentleman who received it, but it actually shows the recipient’s name and address. Now, all this tells you is that someone has hacked a company mailing list and obtained a name, an address and an email address. Bearing in mind the number of hacks (Yahoo and TalkTalk are the best known) in the last couple of years, this is no surprise. It relies on scaring you into opening the attached file which contains the harmful macros.

Golden Rule No.1: never open unsolicited email attachments.

Cleverly, they have encrypted the attachment, so you have to enter the password before you can view the file. This has the effect of preventing your antivirus from scanning the contents of the attachment.

If you receive something similar, delete it without opening it. I’ve had one customer who panicked, cancelled all their credit cards and changed their email address – really no need – and another who opened it (after scanning it with an antivirus) but who was using LibreOffice instead of Word and so seems to have been unaffected. A third just deleted it. Well done (you know who you are…).

Keep alert.


PS There’s also a new ‘Your BT Bill is now available’ scam. Just make sure before you fill in any website logons that the address box at the top of the screen says and not and you’ll be fine.

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Windows 10 – still undecided? Or already made your mind up and want to try an alternative? Read on.

Right, that’s it. I’ve spent many a happy hour ranting about Windows 10 and Microsoft. It spies on you, it pops up adverts in your start menu. If updates break it, there’s little you can do about it. The latest update has, deep in the code, something enabling ‘Windows Subscriptions’, so you can be reasonably sure that at some point Microsoft are going to start charging monthly for certain features. So what’s the alternative?

MintLogoHow about a system that you’re already using? It’s called Linux and it’s already running on about 95 per cent of smartphones – Apple and Android (so that’s Samsung, LG, Nexus, Motorola…) and 93 percent of tablets and iPads. 94 per cent of the computers controlling the internet use it. Even the International Space Station recently started using it,

“because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable”


“for applications that require absolute stability … Linux is the obvious choice”

In the interests of complete disclosure, I should add they were switching from Windows XP, so an abacus and biro would have been an upgrade, but you get the idea…

Can I work it? Is it difficult?

start menu

I’ve installed Linux for around a couple of dozen definitely non-geek customers. A couple have said it’s harder to use than Windows. Three have said it’s easier to use than Windows. On balance, I’d say that means it’s about as easy as Windows. It has the same button in the bottom corner that pops up a menu, the same X in the corner to close a window, it even runs many of the same programs that Windows does, including Chrome and Firefox for browsing the internet, Thunderbird for email, LibreOffice (the completely free Office package that looks like Word and can open and save Word, Excel and Powerpoint files). It’s got a photo gallery and picture editor, and a folder called ‘Home’. In there, you’ll find your Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos and Downloads folders.

homeSo, as a user, it’s very much like Windows. Under the skin, it’s quite different – so different that in normal use it doesn’t even need an antivirus. Security is baked into Linux from the start. And because it doesn’t have antivirus running constantly to slow things down, it’s almost always quicker than Windows. If your Windows machine is running slowly, you might be surprised at the difference it makes.

The best bit is, you don’t have to lose Windows in order to try it out. For most people, as long as there’s a little bit of room on your PC or laptop, Linux will run alongside. When you turn it on, you get a choice of Windows or Linux. For most people, Linux can be all that they need.

The only time that might not be true is if you have a particular piece of hardware or software that only runs in a particular version of Windows, such as a scanner that only runs with Windows XP. Even then, Linux can help. Windows XP is now a security risk waiting to happen, if it’s connected to the internet. But it’s possible to have Linux handle your day-to-day internet, email and computing needs but have a special window inside Linux that runs a complete copy of Windows for anything for which Linux doesn’t have an equivalent. I recently installed Linux for a lady who had a business based on a very old piece of software that she was familiar with and didn’t want to spend £500 replacing. It’s now running inside Linux in a copy of Windows XP that has no access to the internet and so is completely safe from hackers.

And Linux is free. £0.

Do I have to make my mind up now?

Only if you’re still torn about Windows 10. The free offer expires on July 29th so you need to make your mind up by then. But Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft until January 2020 and Windows 8.1 until January 2023 so, if you’re sticking with either of those, you’ve got some time. Most modern Windows machines will support Linux with no difficulties at all. I’ve even had it running well on older XP and Vista machines.

Microsoft’s plan was to have Windows 10 running on on a billion machines by July 2016. So far, it seems that they’ve scarcely achieved a third of that figure, which suggests I’m not the only one advising people to resist. My suggestion is, if you’re happy with Windows 7 or 8 and unhappy with Windows 10, sit back and enjoy what you’re using now. At some point a couple of years before your Windows expires, perhaps give Linux a try. You’ll probably get on well with it, in which case you can just stop using Windows. If you don’t get on with it, you’ve still got time to work out where to go next (Apple Mac, Google Chromebook, tablet, phone…) but I have a feeling that you’ll appreciate the fact that your machine will be faster, more secure and private.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you trying it out sooner…


What is Linux?

Like Windows, it’s an Operating System. It’s the thing that makes a letter appear on the screen when you press a key on the keyboard, that makes the mouse pointer move when the mouse does, that runs programs when you click their icons, that sends things to the printer when you click Print. At the most basic level you have hardware – disks, chips, motherboards – and at the top, software – office packages, email programs, internet browsers, video and music playing software, photo editors. In the middle is the operating system, taking your instructions and running the appropriate programs, saving things on disk, making things work.

Linux is described as Open Source, geek-speak for something that anyone can contribute to and, with the right skills, change. All changes are vetted by the community of Linux developers (the super geek squad) and, unlike Microsoft and other commercial software, nothing is hidden from inspection by anyone, so you can rest assured that if someone were to try to slip in something that spied on you or compromised your security, it would be noticed and corrected before it could be downloaded.

In case that makes it sound like a bit of a cowboy outfit, this page lists the companies that help support it, both financially and with expertise. I won’t bore you with all of their names, but the list starts with Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, Ebay, Facebook, Google…


That’s it! Unless Microsoft pull any more stunts between now and July 29th, I can stop frothing at the mouth and have a lie down.

If you’ve got any questions, get in touch.

Posted in Linux, updates, Windows 10 | Comments closed

Another stunt to get you on Windows 10…

In my last post, I forgot to mention the adverts for unwanted software in your Windows Start menu and, according to some accounts, randomly popping up on your desktop. Also, the box I mentioned here has been subtly updated so that clicking the red X to dismiss it now signifies your consent to install Windows 10, rather than the opposite. Here’s the BBC’s view on the subject. Notice the almost insignificant

Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade

That’s where you’ll find the option to say again that you don’t want the upgrade.


Posted in unwanted software, updates, Windows 10 | Comments closed

And finally… Windows 10 – why I can’t recommend it

You’ve got until July 28th 2016 to finally decide whether to take advantage of the ‘free’ Windows 10 update offer. I’ve been waiting and waiting, in the hope that Microsoft will make some changes that change my mind but they haven’t so here’s my last (but one) post on the subject.

I’m going to try to keep this as short as possible but it’s going to be quite long anyway, so let’s break it into things you can change or work around, and things you can’t. If you don’t want to dig into the technicalities (I’ll try to keep it understandable), just read the ‘Things You Can’t Change‘ section. If you find yourself somehow using Windows 10 – or you know someone who already has it – you might want to look at the rather shorter ‘Things You Can Change‘ section: there’s a few eye-openers you need to know about. Finally, you might ask yourself, ‘What’s the Alternative?‘ and ‘Can I hedge my bets?’.

What is Windows 10?

Windows 10 is a faster, more secure version of Windows 7, and does away with a lot of the ‘new style Start Screen’ nonsense from Windows 8.

If that was all there was to be said, I’d stop here and we could all go and enjoy the summer. Unfortunately, Microsoft have chosen to shoot themselves in the foot by trying to sneak in a few extra ‘features’ of which you might not be aware.

Things You Can’t Change

Windows Updates

Whilst previous versions of Windows had regular updates, Windows 10 is rather different. It’s true that it still updates every month, but apparently there won’t ever be a Windows 11 – new features will be added (and sometimes existing features taken away) regularly, so that you’re always on ‘the latest version’. In theory, this could be a good thing but if you rely on a particular feature and Microsoft remove it (or start charging you for it), it might not seem such a good idea.

Unlike every previous version of Windows, it is impossible to choose not to install individual Windows updates. This has already caused problems for a number of customers who installed Windows 10 (either deliberately or by accident). Windows updates are normally a good thing but occasionally an update causes something to break or not to work properly. Previously, I would uninstall the update and tell Windows not to put it back on. Job done.

Windows 10 unfortunately ignores this and reinstalls the update at the earliest opportunity, causing the problem to crop up again. In response to howls of protest from people like me, Microsoft introduced an ‘update remover’, which allows you to remove updates that are causing problems. This is fine, as long as Windows 10 recognises that there is a problem… When the problem prevents the mouse working but the computer doesn’t actually crash, Windows 10 doesn’t see that there is a problem, so it won’t let you block the offending update. I know, I’ve tried!

There are also many documented bugs and problems with Windows 10 that Microsoft have yet to fix.


Call me paranoid, but one thing that really concerns me in Windows 10 is privacy. This is a tricky topic, because most of us share our lives with Apple or Google through our mobile phones and tablets. If we think about it at all, we balance giving away private information with the convenience of having all our ‘stuff’ available wherever we are, plus free satnav, calendars, email, etc.

With Microsoft, that’s a trickier equation. The amount of information you share with Microsoft is almost impossible to determine and, although you can change settings to reduce what you share, there are suggestions from researchers online that your choices are not always entirely respected. And how many people actually have a Microsoft phone or tablet to make it worthwhile sharing their private information? At the moment, according to The Daily Telegraph, Google and Apple have 98% of the mobile market.

The Windows 10 terms and conditions say

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services,”


“However, we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail, or your documents, photos or other personal files to target ads to you,”

So it seems they collect that information, they just don’t use it to send you adverts. Personally, I’m not that happy with sharing everything with Microsoft. Even with my online life with Google, I don’t share every document, email, photo, and conversation with them. And what exactly do they include in ‘private communications and files in private folders’? Do ‘private communications’ include my bank’s password? And, if they’re storing it, how can they guarantee that hackers (or disgruntled Microsoft employees) can’t get at it?

Longer term

Many people – too many, to be honest – have chosen not to upgrade their old copies of Windows, being happy with XP, Vista and Windows 7. Ignoring the first two (definitely time to upgrade although not necessarily to Windows 10) Windows 7 runs quite happily and should continue to do so until 2020, when Microsoft cease supporting it. However, although security updates are important, Microsoft have recently changed Windows 7 and 8 privacy settings to more closely follow Windows 10. They’ve also issued a ‘security update’ which actually aims to circumvent steps people have taken to avoid the ‘Windows 10 Update’ nagging that is becoming more frequent and intrusive. It’s likely that before 2020 automatic updates will slow down Windows 7 to the point where the only apparent option is to buy a new machine with Windows 10 pre-installed. From my own experience, Since Windows 10 came out, checking for updates on a freshly-repaired Windows 7 machine has gone from taking fifteen minutes to taking anything up to five days.

Hidden Costs

There is a trend in computing where manufactures steer you towards renting their products, rather than buying them. For example go to PC World (no, don’t…) and ask for a copy of Microsoft Office and you will probably be offered Office 365 Home for £79.99 – not too bad as it covers up to five PCs. Except that that price buys you a one year licence to use Office, after which you have to renew annually for a similar (and almost inevitably rising) price. Anyone who’s still using an old copy of Office 2007 will realise that that is roughly what they paid to buy Office outright and use it for nine years.

There is always the free LibreOffice, of course, but people buying Windows 10 on new machines are already learning that there are hidden costs. Want to play DVD movies? £11.59, please. Solitaire? Free, but if you want to avoid video adverts between games, that’ll be £1.19 per month or a bargain £7.69 per year!

There’s also the issue that What Microsoft Giveth, Microsoft Can Also Take Away. Recently, they changed the terms for some of their ‘unlimited’ cloud storage customers, so that it now meant ‘from 1 Terabyte, with additional charges for more capacity’. If I bought a car with an unlimited mileage warranty and the manufacturer subsequently said that, actually, they meant ‘from 1000 miles’, I wouldn’t be happy. Then again, my car has a VW diesel engine, so I’m already not happy…

It’s always possible to install a free DVD player and games (although often with adverts) but Microsoft are trying to encourage everyone to use only their ‘Windows Store’ for downloads so that they can verify that everything is safe. It’s a model they’ve seen working very profitably for Apple and Google, but it seems to go against what we’ve always expected from Windows.

Things You Can Change (and almost certainly should)

Personal Information

For starters, I’m concerned with the amount of personal information that gets shared with Microsoft. There are thirteen pages of privacy settings, allowing you to switch off most but not all of the tracking. This is a difficult topic for me, having shared my entire life with Google for years but I think the difference is that I get something back from Google (free email, diary, satnav, and more) whereas, not having a Windows phone, I get no real benefit from sharing my life with Microsoft. If you’ve already committed to Apple or Android (Google’s system), you might feel the same.

Whose internet connection is it?

I also don’t like the fact that, by default, Microsoft use your internet connection to download Windows Updates for anyone else in the world (or, more likely, other people in your street). Again, this can be changed but of the people I’ve visited who now use Windows 10, no-one had changed it. If you’re on a standard BT Broadband connection and limited to 10GB per month (their standard terms) one other person downloading the Windows 10 update over your connection could use one-third of your entire monthly allowance!

Sharing your wifi connection

Windows 10 wants to share your wifi password with everyone in your address book, which might not be what you want. Or rather, it did have that ability – MS have removed it in the latest upgrade. That’s actually a good thing (and I applaud them for doing it) but it also makes you aware that features can be taken away.

Again, this is not specifically a Microsoft issue – Google and Apple have been known to remove useful features – but previously if something was present in Windows 7, it stayed there even if it disappeared in Windows 8. With Windows 10, there’s a real likelihood that that will no longer be the case.

What’s the Alternative?

As I mentioned in a previous posting, there is an alternative. It’s free, it’s vastly more secure than Windows. For the typical user, it does everything they want and in a very Windows-like way (although under the skin it’s quite different). You won’t need to stop using Windows to try it out. Versions of it already run on your mobile phone, tablet, car (probably) and washing machine. It runs 96% of the internet. Oh, and the International Space Station. And that’s the subject of my next posting.

Can I hedge my bets?

If you don’t want Windows 10 now but might like it in the future, you have until July 28th to install it on your computer via the free upgrade offer. As long as you activate Windows 10 with Microsoft over the internet, you can then immediately revert back to your previous version, safe in the knowledge that even after July 28th you’ll be able to upgrade again free of charge whenever you like. There’s a small risk of needing to re-install a few of your programs (whether upgrading or reverting) but almost everything should work fine.

Posted in updates, Windows 10 | Comments closed

Windows 10 – latest

I’m afraid sheer weight of work has prevented me from posting the full ‘Should I upgrade to Windows 10’ article I was planning, giving my reasons for the decision largely not to recommend it at the moment. It is still possible that Microsoft will change my mind between now and the July deadline… watch this space!

In the meantime, here’s my current recommendations for each version of Windows in quick one paragraph summary form. I’m including versions that aren’t eligible for the free upgrade too, with an interesting option to coax some extra life from machines that should have been pensioned off already.

Windows XP – if you’re still on XP, it’s a security risk. Consider switching to Linux Mint –  a free, secure system, very much like Windows. Several customers have switched and are using it as their only system. I’ll be posting an article or two about it in the next month or so. In a ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ moment, I’ve switched almost all my machines to use it, including the one my wife is using. I think this will tell you how confident I am that it is a viable alternative…

Windows Vista – if you’re on Vista, you won’t be offered the free Windows 10 upgrade. Your machine will probably be running slowly by now and Microsoft will only be supporting it with security updates for another year so, like XP users, consider Linux Mint.

Windows 7 – still an excellent system and supported by Microsoft until 2020. Windows 10 will be marginally quicker but there are a number of reasons (in particular, relating to privacy, updates and future cost) that prevent me recommending it. Sticking with it would not be a problem, or install Linux Mint side-by-side and try it out without affecting your existing system.

Windows 8 and 8.1 – Windows 10 should be a ‘no-brainer’ upgrade (I hate Windows 8 so much…). However the aforementioned privacy, update and cost issues mean I still don’t really feel able to recommend the change, as long as you’re running one of the free ‘make Windows 8 look just like Windows 7’ programs I routinely install.

Windows 10 – if you’re already on Windows 10, you need to check your privacy, update and wifi settings to avoid sharing with Microsoft and others rather more than you might feel comfortable with. If I’ve visited you recently, I’ll have done it for you already. More on this anon.

Windows 10 installed in the last month? It is possible to revert to the previous version of Windows within thirty days, if you don’t like it.

What is this Linux Mint?

Keep an eye out for a mega-article in the next month or so.

Final Warning to avoid getting Windows 10 unexpectedly

As of Monday 8th February, Windows 10 becomes a Microsoft ‘Recommended Upgrade’, meaning if you haven’t followed the steps I set out in this article, you need to do it in the next few days. You have been warned!

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Stop Press: new Windows 10 upgrade box

Had a box pop up offering the Windows 10 upgrade with just two choices: now and tonight? There is a third option – click the red X to close it down.

I’m afraid Microsoft are so desperate to push everyone onto Windows 10 that they’re making it just about impossible to say no.

There’ll be a further post in the next few days, detailing what worries me about 10 and giving brief details of a possible alternative. A full post about that will follow after Christmas.

Keep resisting!

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