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  • MS widely expected to announce “Microsoft 365 Life” on March 30

    Posted on March 16th, 2020 at 13:23 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    No, it’s not an attempt to make you rent Windows. At least, not yet.

    Mary Jo Foley has the details on ZDNet:

    The Microsoft 365 Life bundles will largely be a rebrand of the existing Office 365 Personal and Home products and, as of right now, are expected to retain the same pricing as the existing O365 consumer subscription bundles, my sources have said.

    In spite of the name, it’s not a Life… time subscription. Mary Jo has a description of the name, and notes that Yusuf Mehdi is officially “Corporate Vice President of Modern Life, Search and Devices.”

    Cue the jokes about signs of intelligent life on… oh, nevermind.

  • Microsoft PowerShell 7 upgrade now available for Windows 7

    Posted on March 4th, 2020 at 12:03 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    MS knows where its bread is buttered.

    MS officially launched Microsoft PowerShell 7 today. It’ll run on Windows 10, Windows Server, macOS, some Linuxi, and … Windows 7.

    Good overview from Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet.

  • Privacy update: Brave is the most private browser, Edge blabs like crazy

    Posted on March 2nd, 2020 at 15:12 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    An interesting white paper from Prof Leith, Trinity College, Dublin (PDF):

    We measure the connections to backend servers made by six browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Brave Browser, Microsoft Edge and Yandex Browser, during normal web browsing. Our aim is to assess the privacy risks associated with this back-end data exchange. We find that the browsers split into three distinct groups from this privacy perspective. In the first (most private) group lies Brave, in the second Chrome, Firefox and Safari and in the third (least private) group lie Edge and Yandex…

    [When typing the text leith.ie/nothingtosee.html,] Edge sends text to www.bing.com as it is typed. A request is sent for almost every letter typed, resulting in a total of 25 requests. Each request contains contains a cvid value that is persistent across requests although it changes across browser restarts. Once the typed URL has been navigated to Edge then makes two additional requests: one to web.vortex.data. microsoft.com and one to nav.smartscreen.microsoft.com. The request to nav.smartscreen.microsoft.com includes the URL entered while the request to web.vortex.data.microsoft.com transmits two cookies…

    For Brave with its default settings we did not find any use of identifiers allowing tracking of IP address over time, and no sharing of the details of web pages visited with backend servers. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all share details of web pages visited with backend servers. For all three this happens via the search autocomplete feature, which sends web addresses to backend servers in realtime as they are typed…

    From a privacy perspective Microsoft Edge and Yandex are qualitatively different from the other browsers studied. Both send persistent identifiers than can be used to link requests (and associated IP address/location) to back end servers. Edge also sends the hardware UUID of the device to Microsoft [emphasis added] and Yandex similarly transmits a hashed hardware identifier to back end servers. As far as we can tell this behaviour cannot be disabled by users. In addition to the search autocomplete functionality that shares details of web pages visited, both transmit web page information to servers that appear unrelated to search autocomplete.

    So it looks like the new Edge (Leith says the tested version is 80.0.361.48, which is definitely Chredge) not only tracks what you’re doing, it flags all of your actions with a hardware-unique identifier.

    Somebody tell me again how Microsoft values your privacy?

    Thx Catalin Cimpanu.

  • Mary Branscombe: A deeper dive into Windows 10X

    Posted on February 28th, 2020 at 08:06 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    TechRepublic just published an excellent article by Mary Branscombe (@marypcbuk on Twitter) that digs into the internals of (what we know about) Windows 10X:

    Windows 10X is designed for security and isolation, running all traditional Win32 apps in a container (actually a lightweight VM), separating the state of apps and drivers from the OS itself (with all the system files, registry keys and other data for an app written to an app data folder in the Win32 container rather than into the OS), and making the OS read-only. That speeds up updates, and means you don’t need as much anti-malware scanning — which again improves performance.

    Windows Core OS. What might appear in the second 2020 update to Win10 (20H2) and the first update in 2021 (21H1). Small and large cores. Krypton Containers. WinUI 3.0. Updates to user interface controls that don’t require changes to the operating system. Good stuff.

    If you thought Win10X was just for Neo and Duo, arriving around Christmas time, this article should be a real eye-opener.

    (TechRepublic is a ZDNet property. Like ZDNet, it’s owned by CBS.)

  • Windows 10X: Future fireworks or another dud?

    Posted on February 24th, 2020 at 01:15 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH

    By Woody Leonhard

    Last week, Microsoft took the wraps off its next, next, next version of Windows, the long-anticipated Windows Lite – er, Windows 10X.

    Billed as the dual-screen version of Windows, and expected to ship around Christmas time with the two-screen folding Surface Neo and Surface Duo, Windows 10X seems positioned to become the next version of the last version of Windows.

    I’m skeptical — as usual.

    Read the full story in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 17.8.0 (2020-02-24).

  • Windows Lock Screen showing ad for Chredge – even with advertising turned off

    Posted on February 14th, 2020 at 07:11 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Another bit of sludge from @howardagoldberg….

    He’s been telling me that his Win10 Lock Screen is showing a Chredge ad. I suggested he make sure that he has all of the Lock Screen advertising settings turned off — there’s nothing strange under Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen. In particular, he isn’t using Windows spotlight as his Preview screen.

    About half an hour ago, he made this snapshot of his Lock Screen:

    Apparently this isn’t the full ad. He explains:

    Not all text displayed … there was another sentence that mentioned Edge by name before (battery icon on the lower right also didn’t resolve – sometimes happens before logging in). At any rate you get the idea. It’s there. All notifications turned off for lock screen …

    And this is on a PC that uses a Local Account – not a Microsoft Account.

    Have you been around long enough to remember the righteous indignation about PC manufacturers installing bloatware on PCs? You can still find Microsoft’s ad for their Signature Edition PCs, although you can’t buy one any more…

    Apparently Microsoft stopped selling Signature Edition PCs after August 2018. (If you have a more precise date I’d sure like to hear about it.)

    How the mighty have fallen. Microsoft continues to slide down that slippery road….

    UPDATE: Goldberg now advises that he may have had “Fun Facts” turned on in the Lock Screen dialog. This may be a self-inflicted wound (although I continue to lament the passing of the Signature Edition PC program). Will keep you posted.

  • Important developments in the world of Windows

    Posted on February 10th, 2020 at 01:15 Tracey Capen Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH

    By Woody Leonhard

    This past week saw some major changes in Windows as we know it — from remarkable bugs in Win7 to frightening discoveries about Win10.

    Microsoft is (once again!) reorganizing the Windows team. Do we have reason for hope … or does it presage doom and gloom?

    Read the full story in AskWoody Plus Newsletter 17.6.0 (2020-02-10).

  • Will Microsoft forcibly change the Chrome default search engine to Bing?

    Posted on January 22nd, 2020 at 07:43 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Is this “Office as a Service,” or just another poorly worded Microsoft announcement?

    I’m getting lots of questions about a bizarre but official post from ‘Softie Daniel Brown entitled Microsoft Search in Bing and Office 365 ProPlus. In it, Microsoft seems to be saying that everyone who installs the latest patch for Office 365 ProPlus will have their default search engine in Google Chrome changed to Bing.

    Starting with Version 2002 of Office 365 ProPlus, an extension for Microsoft Search in Bing will be installed that makes Bing the default search engine for the Google Chrome web browser. This extension will be installed with new installations of Office 365 ProPlus or when existing installations of Office 365 ProPlus are updated.

    Pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

    By making Bing the default search engine, users in your organization with Google Chrome will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Search, including being able to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar. Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it.

    First of all, “Version 2002” is Microsoft’s incredibly stupid way of saying the February 2020 update to Office 365 Pro Plus. It’ll be available to the bleeding edge in February, but normal folks (on the “Semi-Annual Channel branch,” you gotta love the terminology) won’t see it until July.

    After the extension for Microsoft Search in Bing is installed, your users will see a Welcome screen. For example, the Welcome screen in Google Chrome looks similar to this:

    Can they do that?

    Not all devices with Version 2002 or later will receive the extension right away. That’s because we’re gradually rolling out this change, first to new installations and then to existing installations. So if you’re installing or updating to Version 2002 or later, and the extension isn’t installed, that is probably expected and not necessarily an error. It’s likely a future installation or update will install the extension and set Bing as the default search engine for Google Chrome.

    That’s either the worst Microsoft announcement I’ve seen this year — or it’s an incredible overstepping of antitrust proportions that deserves fire and brimstone.

    Do you read the announcement any differently? Is this perhaps an opt-in kind of thing, where you have to activate the extension (which is dirty pool, too, don’t get me wrong)? Or is Microsoft going to roll out Bing as the default search engine in Chrome for everybody who’s getting Office ProPlus … as a Service, of course.

    UPDATE: Catalin Cimpanu, over at ZDNet, is under the impression that this is for real — that Office 365 ProPlus will hijack your Chrome browser search engine. He goes over MS’s published methods for preventing the hijacking.

    Where’s the outrage? Or is this the new normal?