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ISSUE 17.40.F • 2020-10-12

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH: A double whammy of Win10 changes

APPLE: Touring though Apple’s September updates

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Using Outlook with a Gmail account

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: A post-reinstall checklist for Windows 10

SMALL-BUSINESS COMPUTING: What is Microsoft saying to SMBs?

BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — URL Disabler


WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH

A double whammy of Win10 changes

Woody Leonhard

By Woody Leonhard

Microsoft is about ready to push out its latest release of Windows 10 — Version 20H2.

Not Version 2010? One might have thought so, based on the current convention. Yea, Win10 naming just gets more confusing.

To ensure that Microsoft doesn’t install 20H2 until you’re good and ready, take a look at Patch Lady Susan Bradley’s Computerworld article.

Of more immediate concern, tomorrow is October’s Patch Tuesday! To avoid becoming one of the updates’ early and unpaid beta testers, open Windows Update and confirm that you have patching paused — for at least two weeks. I’ve posted step-by-step details in my Computerworld article.

Strap yourself in; it’s going to be an interesting month.


APPLE

Touring though Apple’s September updates

Nathan Parker

By Nathan Parker

For those who follow Apple development, September is a special time of year.

It’s when the company showcases major updates to its various consumer operating systems: iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Recently, I took each of them for a test drive.

Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve found so far — both the good and the … not so good.

iOS 14

I updated my iPhone XS to iOS 14.0.1, and the experience was generally good. (It’s a chunky 2.32GB update.)

The highlights of the new iOS are user-interface changes designed to make working on a small screen easier. For example, you can now pin widgets to the home screen for quick access to important information. Not surprisingly, third-party widgets must be updated to work with that capability. At first, creating a custom smart stack of home-screen widgets was a bit confusing. But I soon got the hang of it.

App Library is my favorite new feature. I can now keep all my apps on the home screen, and iOS organizes them for me. (Unfortunately, App Library did not make it into iPadOS — and it would be even more fun to see it added to macOS.)

App Library
Figure 1. If you’ve loaded your iPhone with a ton of software, App Library can make switching to a specific application quick and easy.

Version 14’s compact call notifications are a breath of fresh air. When a phone call comes in, I can now continue work on my iPhone without a call notification taking over my entire screen. The only issue I’ve had with this feature is figuring out how to quickly put a call on speaker phone directly from the notification.

Getting used to the new compact Siri interface has taken a bit more time than I expected. But here, too, it’s nice that Siri no longer takes over the entire screen when you’re using it.

Translate could be a fabulous app for travelers. It currently supports 11 languages, and you can download languages for those times when you’re not connected to the Internet. Translate seems quick and accurate, based on my admittedly simple tests.

Apple claims that its translator is more privacy-focused than is Google Translate. But it still has a way to go to match Google, which currently supports over 100 languages — 59 of them offline.

I was pleased with the new HomeKit enhancements. The app supports facial recognition for Wi-Fi-connected doorbell cameras, and the Activity Zones feature adds motion detection within set areas of a camera’s overall view. So you could, for example, have the system ignore people walking by on the sidewalk but notify you if someone darkens your doorstep. I was able to set this up easily for my HomeKit-compatible Eve Cam.

It’s always great when an OS update can enhance existing hardware. That theme extends to my AirPods Pro, with the new Spatial Audio (more info) feature and device switching, which automatically shifts your AirPods connection between iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

From a productivity perspective, another favorite new feature is the ability to set default email and browser apps — in my case, Outlook for email and Brave for browsing.

Battery life has decreased slightly since upgrading, but I expect that future tweaks to Version 14 will bring improvements. Most important, I haven’t experienced any major issues with iOS 14.

iPadOS 14

So far, my updated iPad Pro seems solid and stable — more so than was the upgrade to Version 13. Many of my favorite new features on iOS 14 (iPhone) also showed up on the iPad with iPadOS 14. Widgets now show up on the home screen, but I wish they could be pinned to my preferred location. And, again, I’m disappointed that the App Library didn’t make the cut. Hopefully, alternate pinning locations and App Library will appear on a future iPadOS 15.

One excellent change: Updated apps can now include sidebars and pull-down menus (see Figure 2), adding significantly to overall usability. These aren’t huge changes, but they do make the iPad feel more like a real computer. The new compact search interface, which feels similar to the Mac’s Spotlight, is a joy to use.

Photos sidebar
Figure 2. iPadOS 14 adds easier-to-use sidebars to compatible apps.

Apple Pencil support has improved in iPadOS 14. Scribble was fun to use, as was the ability to copy handwritten text and paste it as text. I currently use Apple Pencil mostly for marking up documents and completing forms, but it might prove useful for taking notes.

Upgrading to a new OS often carries with it a cascade of application updates. But so far, I’ve had to upgrade just an ebook-reader app. I also removed a sleep timer that used to sync with my iPhone. (Apple removed the Sleep feature from iPadOS 14’s Clock app.)

As with my phone, the iPad’s battery life dropped slightly — but not nearly as much as when I upgraded to iPadOS 13. Overall, I think Version 14 is a worthy update.

watchOS 7

It’s clear that the upgrade to Version 7 is focused on the new Apple Watch 6. I own a Series 3 (LTE), so I was unable to play with enhancements such as Family Setup, Hearing Health, or even Handwashing (a feature I really would have enjoyed testing).

New watch faces are always welcome, but I plan to stick with the Siri style because it dynamically displays the information I need … when I need it. That said, watch-face sharing looks interesting and might be a way for me to try faces configured by other Apple Watch owners. (Each watch face can be customized to make it more personal.)

An interesting new feature that does apply to the Series 3 is the Sleep app (Figure 3) that works in conjunction with iOS 14 (iPhone). I don’t wear my watch to bed because I find it uncomfortable — and because I prefer to charge it overnight. Now I can measure sleep by setting my phone down at night and picking it up the next morning.

Sleep app
Figure 3. My Sleep app settings on my Apple Watch now sync with my iPhone.

The combination of watchOS 7 and Series 6 Watch expands Apple’s incorporation of important health-tracking sensors — oxygen-saturation, for example. If Apple could include blood-pressure and non-invasive glucose monitors, the watches would take monitoring to an entirely new level.

WatchOS 7 adds four new workout options: Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and Cooldown. I haven’t tried them yet, but core-strengthening and cool-down goals are especially useful.

Updating to watchOS 7 was mostly smooth. Overall performance seems a bit faster and more fluid. However, I did encounter the widely reported issue of unplanned watch reboots. (Series 4 and 5 watches are apparently unaffected.) And as with my iPhone and iPad, battery life is not quite what it was. If you haven’t upgraded a Watch 3 yet, I recommend waiting for the inevitable follow-up patches.

tvOS 14

Unlike iPhones, iPads, and Watches, Apple rarely makes much of a splash with updates to its streaming-TV box. Nevertheless, tvOS 14 adds a few enhancements. For example, the multi-user control center makes it easy to switch between user preferences. And HomeKit Secure Video cameras can now be displayed on Apple TV (more useful for doorbell cameras than for indoor cams).

AirPlay and YouTube finally receive 4K support, and Picture-in-Picture is handy for watching two streams on one Apple TV. AirPods users can now share an Apple TV’s audio, and you can select one or more Apple TVs to play tunes from an iPhone or iPad via AirPlay.

Although there are no recent significant changes to Apple’s Apple TV+, the streaming service continues to receive new programming — including classic Fraggle Rock episodes and Apple-original shows such as Tom Hanks’s Greyhound. I resubscribed to Apple TV+ and believe it was money well spent. (You get a free year of Apple TV+ when you buy the Apple TV box.)

I seldom experience any issues with tvOS updates, and that was the case with Version 14. I only need patience while a progress bar scrolls across my TV screen.

A good experience, overall: Updating my various Apple devices went smoothly, which in my experience is usually the case. Yes, there have been some updating debacles in past years, but Apple usually fixes them quickly. Have you had any issues with the recent updates? What are your favorite or most annoying new features? Let us know in the AskWoody Lounge!

Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

Nathan Parker has been using Apple devices since 2006, when he purchased a PowerBook G4 running Mac OS X Tiger. He has worked in various IT consulting roles and is currently an IT Consultant for Earth Networks (formerly WeatherBug). In addition to his contributions on AskWoody, Nathan also blogs weather updates at WeatherTogether. And he’s working on his PhD.


Best of the Lounge

Using Outlook with a Gmail account

No good deed goes unpunished. That’s often the case with computer support. Plus member hdkeney might have had that feeling while assisting a friend with a new PC.

Needing help with configuring Outlook to manage a Gmail account, hdkeney naturally turned to the Lounge for tips and advice. The replies delved into email-client specifics such as archiving in Outlook and POP versus IMAP.


Windows 7

Da Boss woody alerts us to ZDNet contributor Ed Bott’s survey of Win7 users. The article provides a deep look into why many users of Microsoft’s retired OS are unwilling or unable to move to Windows 10. Not surprisingly, AskWoody Loungers offered their thoughts on this contentious topic.


WINDOWS 10

Troubleshooting even basic Windows functions can be frustrating. Plus member WCHS wondered why one notebook was automatically synching time correctly and the other wasn’t. Both systems are running Win10 1909, and both had been set to automatically adjust to daylight saving/standard time. Using tips offered by fellow Loungers, WCHS was able to kickstart Win10’s built-in Windows Time service via a PowerShell command.


AD BLOCKERS

Plus member moss rawn posed that question to the forum. Fellow Loungers provided insight into the pros and cons of ad blockers. There was also a strong preference for the uBlock utility. What’s your experience with keeping unwanted ads at bay?


SECURITY

Yes, there are still AOL users out there. Plus Member Kathy Stevens needs to maintain a legacy AOL email account. But she recently received emails, purportedly from AOL, stating that the account’s security needed upgrading. Was this a phishing attack? Forum members discussed ways to confirm the messages’ veracity.


PRODUCTIVITY SUITES

Da Boss woody reports that Google G-Suite has become Google Workspace. Our fearless leader posted a link to Google’s announcement, which noted, among other things, user-interface enhancements. Some fellow forum members weren’t impressed.


JUST FOR FUN

Among the ground-breaking games of the early PC era, one must list Microsoft Flight Simulator. For many personal-computing pioneers, it was innovative, awesome, and completely addicting. Plus member Alex5723 posts a link to an excellent YouTube video of Flight Simulator changes over the past 37 years. Did you know that FS pre-dates Windows by three years?


If you’re not already a Lounge member, use the quick registration form to sign up for free.

Stories in this week’s PAID AskWoody Plus Newsletter
Become an ASKWOODY PLUS member today!

 

Fred Langa

LANGALIST

A post-reinstall checklist for Windows 10

By Fred Langa

After a Win10 reinstall, the order in which you set up a PC’s drivers, updates, apps, and data can fundamentally affect its stability, performance, and ease of use.

Here’s how to get a Win10 reinstallation off on the right foot — solid, fast, glitch-free, and running as well as it possibly can!


Amy Babinchak

SMALL-BUSINESS COMPUTING

What is Microsoft saying to SMBs?

By Amy Babinchak

Microsoft’s 2020 Inspire and Ignite conferences are now literally history; as with most other major tech meetings this year, they were, for the first time, both entirely virtual.

Inspire is focused on Microsoft-partner marketing, while Ignite is more about technology. Both events showcase the company’s vision of future business computing. But sometimes you have to read between the lines, too. Here’s what I think Microsoft is saying to small-to-medium businesses and IT pros.


Deanna McElveen

Best Utilities

Freeware Spotlight — URL Disabler

By Deanna McElveen

Are you a parent struggling to keep Timmy focused on online schoolwork?

Are you a business manager who needs to bar Carl from browsing Amazon for fishing lures on company time?

There’s a profusion of reasons for blocking certain websites. Regrettably, many site-blocking tools simply modify Windows’ built-in “hosts” file, which is easily worked around. Fortunately, the folks at Sordum.org offer URL Disabler, a free and portable app that’s difficult to circumvent.


Publisher: AskWoody LLC (woody@askwoody.com); editor: Tracey Capen (editor@askwoody.com).

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