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ISSUE 20.02.F • 2023-01-09 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates

In this issue

FROM THE PUBLISHER: Welcome to our twentieth year

Additional articles in the PLUS issue • Get Plus!

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Make Windows 11 as cool as your phone with Android apps

LEGAL BRIEF: Note to Congress: Please try to keep up

HARDWARE: Dymo declines


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Welcome to our twentieth year

Susan Bradley

By Susan Bradley

Time flies.

It seems like only yesterday. Out of the blue, I got an email from Brian Livingston, asking to meet with him while I was in Seattle attending a Microsoft event. Over dinner, he explained that he wanted me to write a column in the Windows Secrets Newsletter that would track issues with Microsoft patches and analyze their impact on PCs and their users.

It was the dawn of “The Patch Lady.”

At the time, I was in charge of the computers at my office and discovering that, more often than not, I knew more about my network and how computers worked than the consultants I hired. Those were the days when there was no cloud — everything was on-premises and thus directly accessible to me. I was the de facto systems administrator for my firm, in the process learning that not only was I using the same technology as larger companies, I was also maintaining it all at the same level of complexity.

Furthermore, I noticed that the problems I was having with my home computers were often different from the issues I dealt with at the office. It became clear to me that Microsoft was paying much more attention to the business users than it did to consumers.

I had been posting about patching on a listserv called I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb — a female talking about patching and technology on a list used mostly by men. There, again, I saw that I was doing the same heavy lifting in my tiny business as most of the admins in large companies. But I also realized that I could often respond more quickly to problems in my company because the larger enterprises had levels of management, larger teams, and defined processes to deal with.

So Brian invited me to a very nice steak restaurant near the Microsoft campus to discuss working with him. I remember being intrigued and agreeing to the dinner meeting. We sat in a secluded booth lit with tea lights and candles. Sounds romantic, but we talked about — what else — Microsoft, software, patching, and the help I was offering in a listserv. (I’m sure the waiter was confused.)

The history of this newsletter

That was the genesis of my involvement, but it was not the beginning of the newsletter. That started long before that steak dinner and involved a blending of several newsletters and talented writers over the years. Here’s the approximate timeline:

  • 1997 — Fred Langa starts the LangaList newsletter.
  • 1998 — Woody Leonhard starts the Woody’s Windows Watch newsletter.
  • 2003 — Brian Livingston starts Brian’s Buzz on Windows.
  • 2004 — Brian merges Brian’s Buzz and Woody’s Windows Watch to create the Windows Secrets Newsletter, named after Brian’s best-selling books.
  • 2004 — Woody starts to broadcast news and advice on Windows and Office.
  • 2005 — Susan Bradley starts the “Patch Watch” column in Windows Secrets.
  • 2006 — LangaList merges with Windows Secrets.
  • 2008 — Gizmo Richards’s Support Alert Newsletter merges into Windows Secrets.
  • 2009 — Windows Secrets takes the Woody’s Lounge website under its wing, becoming the Windows Secrets Lounge.
  • 2010 — Brian hands the editor-in-chief reins to Tracey Capen.
  • 2010 — iNet acquires Windows Secrets.
  • 2015 — Penton Media acquires iNet.
  • 2016 — Informa acquires Penton.
  • 2017 — grows an appendage called the AskWoody Lounge, opening the site to contributions from everyone.
  • 2019 — AskWoody LLC acquires the Windows Secrets Newsletter, merging the Windows Secrets Lounge into the AskWoody Lounge and creating the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.
  • 2020 — Woody Leonhard retires to a tropical location after surviving the pandemic year.
  • 2021 — Susan Bradley takes over the mantle of the site; names Will Fastie editor in chief; welcomes Brian Livingston back as a columnist; continues the relationship with Fred Langa, Deanna McElveen, and other contributors; and adds new writers.
My history with PCs

Most people mark the beginning of personal computing as the release of the Altair computer in 1974. But I count the arrival of the IBM PC in 1981 as my real starting point. I played a bit with Cobol and Basic in college, but it wasn’t until my sister purchased her IBM personal computer for a whopping $2,000 (from Sears Roebuck, by the way) that I really got into computing.

One of the biggest changes over these decades has been the source of support and information. In the ’80s, we relied on extensive, printed manuals (especially the excellent ones produced by IBM). The only paper we seem to get these days is a slip with a scan code that directs us to a vendor’s site or downloads an app to our phones. And you’ve no doubt bought a tech gadget from China that comes with a manual the size of an index card and with print so small you need a magnifying glass to read it.

Meanwhile, our primary sources of information have moved to the Web. Some of that Web-based documentation is good. But a lot is hastily assembled and poorly written. And it’s not always convenient to look at a website using the same computer you’re trying to fix.

That’s why I’m still a believer in good technology writing — very focused, with good reporting and analysis (as Will says, “actionable intelligence”). That’s one reason we continue to email our newsletter — doing so provides our readership a way to print it if desired.

Consumer and home users

Over the past 20 years, I’ve noticed that the incentive to upgrade and the excitement in doing so have waned. I remember friends who stood in line waiting until Best Buy opened its doors at midnight to sell fresh copies of Windows XP. These days, the big vendors are pushing stuff to us whether we want it or not — and at their pace, not ours. So few of these new Apple and Microsoft “features” are exciting. They’re either tiny, incremental changes or radical UI alterations. (Not to harp on the Windows 11 start menu, but have you noticed that the icon for Settings isn’t in a fixed place?) People now ask me where the shut-down button is.

I want to embrace change, especially if it will improve efficiency and productivity. There should be a clear roadmap ahead. Yet we’re still fighting about when to migrate from Windows 10 to Windows 11, mostly because Microsoft has not given us clear paths to follow. I think about all the changes that have affected my father through his 94 years — mechanical adding machines, punch cards, room-sized computers behind glass walls, personal computers, the Internet, smartphones, and his Apple Watch that will notify us if he falls. He’s dealt with those changes and even embraced them. He has not feared them.

There really isn’t any other choice — we must all strive to learn as much as we can about the technology changes swirling around us. Swim or get eaten. It’s important because there are many bad actors out there, looking for any way to take advantage of us — especially if we are older and considered susceptible because we don’t understand our tech. We need that tech, so we need to know how to defend it.

We tend to think our need for defenses is a relatively new development. It’s not so. I found an archive of a 2004 Windows Secrets site showcasing scams targeting computer users. Here’s a May 2004 description of a scam from that era:

We recently revealed that hackers had found a way to hijack the address bar of Internet Explorer, Netscape, and possibly other browsers. This exploit makes it appear that you are visiting one site — such as your online bank — whereas you are actually visiting a bogus site that just happens to look exactly like your online bank. Now our readers have discovered additional exploits that haven’t yet been reported in major media.

Sound familiar? Scams have not changed one bit. What has changed is the technology we use that enables attacks. If the major vendors are focusing on business users and not us ordinary, everyday consumers, it’s all the more reason for you to be informed. That’s my goal. I want this newsletter to help you find the right balance between affordability, productivity, and safety.

Business users

My goals are the same for businesses. But add on finance. A small business with 10 employees may need to pay for 10 phones, 10 computers, 10 sets of software, etc. Businesses need to consider renting or buying and assess the tax consequences (or benefits) of both. Small businesses may not have the Patch Lady on site and may thus need to consider support contracts. Businesses in the US must usually consider the safety and security of the customer data they collect and prepare for liability if their computer systems are breached. Legal expenses may be involved in dealing with a breach.

As we have been doing, we’ll continue to help you determine costs, assess risks, plan carefully, and act prudently.

The road ahead

As we move forward into the next 20 years, I promise you this: Our information will always help you keep your technology under your control. It will always be in a format that is informative. Will it always be in an email format? That I can’t answer. I prefer email, because it comes to me and I don’t need to search for it, so I’d like to continue that way. It just works.

I hope our content and our site will always do exactly that: work for you.

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Susan Bradley is the publisher of the AskWoody newsletters.


Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Brian Livingston

Make Windows 11 as cool as your phone with Android apps

By Brian Livingston

After many, many requests, Microsoft finally added the capability to run Android apps when it released Windows 11.

Every iPhone and Android phone user knows how convenient it is to carry in your pocket or purse any number of apps that bring you weather, traffic, emails, texts, games — even rocket science, if that’s your thing.

However, unlike the ease of use of a smartphone — where you can install virtually any app with just a few clicks — Windows 11 presents you with a series of “gotchas” that can discourage even the biggest Microsoft fanatic from adding an Android app.


Max Stul Oppenheimver

Note to Congress: Please try to keep up

By Max Stul Oppenheimer, Esq.

That’s a big ask.

In a previous column, I explained why law always lags technology. To summarize, case law is by definition reactive. Courts don’t go out and look for cases; they wait for someone to be upset enough to bring one to them. Legislatures can be proactive, but they can’t act until they realize there’s a problem to be acted upon. So it is not surprising that new issues will arise, and we will need to be patient while solutions are agreed upon.

But …


Will Fastie

Dymo Declines

By Will Fastie

One of my favorite brands is headed for extinction.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as dismayed with a Christmas gift as I was a year ago. I just didn’t know it at the time. My wife gave me the gift because I asked for it, but even my reason for wanting it was askew.

The gift? A Dymo LabelWriter 550 Turbo. Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap buildings in a single bound. And, designed to disappoint.

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