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ISSUE 17.31.F • 2020-08-10

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH: Will Windows transition to one update a year?

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Simply the best music!

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: More tales from the drive-sanitation trenches

PRIVACY: Is there a DNS Blackhole in your future?

ON SECURITY: Living in a time of digital obsolescence


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WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH

Will Windows transition to one update a year?

Woody Leonhard

By Woody Leonhard

Windows 10 upgrades have had a rocky past, with minimally useful new versions cropping up two — or even three! — times a year.

I assume that an exceedingly few Windows users want that much churn. The entire process has brought more smoke than light.

But it now looks like Microsoft will finally fall back to just one new “feature” release each year. Arguably, we’re there already.

Raise your hand if you can remember the Windows versions that lasted two, four, six, or even more years.

Yeah, I’m an old guy, too. In case you’re too young to recall, it’s every release before Win10.

The demise of the tick-tock

Windows 10 rolled off the block five years ago with promises that it would be updated continuously, with new versions appearing three or so times a year. (This was the concept of Windows as a “service.”) Then, someone at Microsoft who was a bit more astute than the rest slowed the upgrade process down to a more manageable twice a year.

More recently, that pace was further slowed to our current tick-tock, major-minor cadence … sorta. Even the most recent upgrades are not quite a simple tick-tock. Here’s a brief history of Win10 releases:

  • Version 1507: the original — when it was released in July 2015, it didn’t even have a version number. (I assume there were still “discussions” within Microsoft as to how future releases would be pegged.)
  • Version 1511: the November Update — it appeared just four months after 1507. It was more a big bug patch than an upgrade.
  • Version 1607: the Anniversary Update — it was released in August 2016, nine months after 1511.
  • Version 1703: the excessively hyped Creators Update — Microsoft delivered this release in April 2017 (eight months later).
  • Versions 1709: the Fall Creators Update — this was Microsoft’s last attempt at giving Win10 releases catchy names. It shipped in October 2017, six months after Version 1703, and launched the tick-tock era of upgrades.
  • Versions 1803, 1809, 1903, 1909, and 2004: each release appeared more or less six months after the preceding version.

Of course, these release dates were totally spurious for average Windows users, who might wait months for an upgrade to be offered on their PCs.

The award for the most disastrous rollout goes to Version 1809, released October 2018. When upgraders started losing data, Microsoft yanked the new OS — then released it again, yanked it again, and finally released a fully working version in mid-November. True to form, many Windows users did not see the final, final Win10 1809 until early 2019.

The six-month tick-tock pattern became far more apparent with Versions 1903 and 1909. I characterized the fall release as akin to a Win7 service pack: an update with under-the-hood fixes and almost no new features. In fact, to this day, both 19xx versions share the same update patches.

Clearly, Microsoft’s current plan is to send out the first feature release each year for the cannon fodder — er, masses — to test. It will then solidify interim fixes with the second, “fall,” update. Again, this is a sort of service-pack approach — you get the main release, then a service pack six months later.

Those with Enterprise licenses get a bit of a snooze button. Most Win10 versions include support for 18 months, but Enterprise editions of the “fall” releases get patches for 30 months. In other words, pay the vig, and you get extended support on the “tock.”

Where we’re headed

It appears that this six-month upgrade cycle will persist through this year, with Win10 2004 designated the “major” update (though in truth, it has few new features) and the next release (code-name 20H2) acting as the “minor” update.

However, don’t get too comfortable with this cadence; well-informed rumors say that we probably won’t get a spring 21H1 — or if we do, it’ll be stunted. Reportedly, the next real update for Win10 will come in late 2021.

In place of the “tick” release, the inside bet is that Microsoft will switch gears and release a stripped-down version of Windows in early 2021, commonly called Windows 10X. It would go head-to-head with the Google Chromebook.

I wrote about Windows 10X in “Windows 10X: Future fireworks or another dud?” — AskWoody Plus Newsletter 2020-02-24. The vision has changed quite a bit in the interim:

  • Windows 10X will initially ship on single-screen devices — not exclusively on dual-screen units as originally rumored. (Microsoft has, apparently, put dual-screen machines on the shelf for now.)
  • Windows 10X won’t support native Windows apps — likely a bad decision. That’s the same mistake that doomed Windows RT and Win10 in S mode. In theory, native Windows apps will appear on the 10X desktop but run in the Microsoft cloud. In other words, an Internet connection will be required.
  • Again, Windows 10X will be squarely targeted at the low-cost, low-maintenance Chromebook market.

Zac Bowden has more details at Windows Central.

By taking this approach, Microsoft could try to kill two birds with one Windows stone: the horrendous and universally decried churn in Win10 versions gets cut in half, and a new kind of Windows is allowed to rise to the forefront.

Will it work?

Color me skeptical.

I have a hard time believing people will buy a Windows computer that doesn’t run standard (i.e., local) Windows programs. It’s an old refrain, but legacy apps remain the reason — and the only reason? — to stick with Windows.

If Microsoft creates a Windows-centric cloud service, how long will it be before Apple, Google, Samsung, Huawei, and others jump onto the bandwagon?

This much I know for sure: Microsoft has gotten away with rapid-fire and disruptive feature upgrades for far too long. Instead of emphasizing — even relishing in! — the churn, MS should return to the days of producing a dull, boring, but rock-solid operating system.

The last thing we need is more psychedelic lipstick on the pig.

Questions? Comments? Thinly veiled prognostications of impending doom? Join the discussion about this article on the AskWoody Lounge. Bring your sense of humor.

Eponymous factotum Woody Leonhard writes lots of books about Windows and Office, creates the Woody on Windows columns for Computerworld, and raises copious red flags in sporadic AskWoody Plus Alerts.


Best of the Lounge

Simply the best music!

Yes, in this era of streaming, some of us still have stacks of CDs. And we’d love to play them … if only they were better organized and more easily accessed! No doubt audiophiles have established their own elaborate systems. But how are the rest of us supposed to do it?

@NetDef does a superb job of showing us troglodytes — step by step and illustrated — just how to make high-quality digital copies of our favorite music, and how to organize them into a form that makes sense.

Check out “A guide to archiving RedBook standard audio CD’s!” in the AskWoody Knowledge Base. Technical considerations such as FLAC and MP3, preservation, and playlists are all covered.


Linux

AskWoody MVP Microfix launched a discussion on Linux distros by posting a link to a TecMint article and another link to Linux Journey — an excellent resource for tutorials. Other Loungers added tips for newbies: Plus Member DrBonzo recommended trying out live distros with a flash drive, and firemind contributed links to videos about Linux Mint. Fellow members provide solid advice on good distros to start out with … and which to avoid.


Malware

New computing vulnerabilities seem to pop up like spring flowers. In truth, there’s something for everyone. Are they just catchy names, or are they something you need to lose sleep over? You can find out in the AskWoody forum. Here’s a sample:

  • Read about how BootHole could affect Windows, Mac, and Linux!
  • A WastedLocker ransomware attack took out Garmin services — and the company’s flight services were affected!
  • ThiefQuest ransomware is targeting Macs!

How do you keep your system safe and secure? AskWoody will keep you up to date on possible threats.

Keep in mind that not everything that goes wrong is caused by malware. Alex5723 warned that Windows Defender is tagging CCleaner as potentially unwanted software. And Woody gives us the inside scoop on the event that took down Outlook for hours — and it wasn’t caused by a virus!


Hardware

Now, this is something you don’t see every day — fortunately. But AskWoody Plus member billbled did. There was a rumor that BitLocker might be the cause of similar problems. However, billbled had BitLocker turned off. So many possibilities: video drivers, system failures, bad video cords, failing displays? In this case, changing BIOS settings seems to have solved the problem — for the moment.


Newsletter articles

Looking for that LangaList article from earlier in the year? How about that freeware utility Deanna reviewed in Best Utilities? Curious about what you’ve missed with your new membership? Our quarterly updated index will help.


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

More tales from the drive-sanitation trenches

By Fred Langa

My report about making a hard drive permanently inaccessible really struck a chord with AskWoody subscribers!

That article, “‘Moving house is great fun,’ said no one ever,” kicked off a profusion of reader tales about drive sanitizing — a mix of excellent advice, unexpected suggestions, and amusing anecdotes. Take a look!


Richard Hay

Privacy

Is there a DNS Blackhole in your future?

By Richard Hay

Managing your online security and privacy is a never-ending battle.

There is a variety of tools for this task, but each has its limitations. So I decided to experiment with a somewhat lesser-known technique called DNS Blackholes. Here’s my report on a journey of discovery.


Susan Bradley

On Security

Living in a time of digital obsolescence

By Susan Bradley

Recently the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released a document warning about unpatched Windows 7 machines.

That alert (PDF) reinforced what we already know: using an unpatched copy of Win7 is risky. According to the FBI, cybercriminals are targeting network infrastructures containing Win7 systems. And the document pointed out past problems with obsolete operating systems. For example, after Windows XP’s end of life, the healthcare industry was slow to upgrade to a supported version, leading to increased exposure of “records.”


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