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  • Woody’s Windows Watch: Where we’re headed with Windows Secrets

    Posted on February 11th, 2019 at 05:21 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    The migration has begun. It’s just that… you can’t see it yet. Soon, the massive Windows Secrets Lounge will merge into the AskWoody Lounge. We’re gonna swallow that whale.

    Here’s what you need to know — and what you can do to prepare — to make the move.

    Short version: You don’t have to do anything, but it’ll be easier for Windows Secrets Loungers to register a new account here on AskWoody (if you don’t have one already) now, in preparation.

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes are never easy. But I think this one will be very worthwhile, for all of us.

    In the new AskWoody Plus Newsletter issue 16.5.0 – out this morning.

  • Swallowing a whale: The joys of integrating Windows Secrets Lounge into AskWoody

    Posted on January 20th, 2019 at 09:45 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Sometime in the next week-or-so we’ll be merging the Windows Secrets Lounge into the AskWoody Lounge.

    It’s a big project. Windows Secrets has more than a million posts, going back to the days when Brian and I started it. There are many hundreds of active users and more than 100,000 user accounts that are dormant. I think of it as swallowing a whale.

    Right now, we have some lingering problems on AskWoody — especially with roles and absorbing Windows Secrets Newsletter subscriptions — but we need to get the whale integrated before it goes down for the last time. The game is afoot.

    Windows Secrets Lounge residents aren’t going to like the new layout, they’re going to be disoriented for a while, and they’re going to look longingly at the grass on the greener, older side. I understand that and appreciate it. But at the same time, they won’t miss the weeks-long outages or unresponsiveness that they’ve come to expect.

    No matter what happens, Windows Secrets is disappearing — it was due to disappear on December 31, and it’s only up now because of the forbearance of the previous owners. It’s up to all of us to throw out the lifelines and save that legacy. It’s a noble, worthwhile goal.

    Please bear with me while we go through the transition. I’m getting remarkable help from @PKCano, @Kirsty, @Microfix, @Satrow, @Elly and dozens more. Hundreds of you are asking and answering tech questions, the heartbeat of this site. I’ve been manning the CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com line because the problems at this point rarely have simple answers — forgive me for slow replies.

    But together we can get that whale swallowed and emerge with a stronger, greatly expanded tech site that’ll continue to help people for years to come.

    Thanks, everybody.

  • FAQ: AskWoody, Windows Secrets, Subscriptions and ongoing database clashes

    Posted on January 14th, 2019 at 10:44 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    This morning’s release of the first AskWoody Plus Newsletter has brought a flood of questions. I’m answering them all at CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com, but there are some recurring themes that I figure deserve a FAQ. I’ll update this list as the questions roll in.

    Q: What’s happening?

    We’re taking the Windows Secrets Newsletter subscriber list, which is indexed by email address, and moving it to a much more stable email system known as MailChimp. (The homegrown Windows Secrets Newsletter system was notoriously unstable, as many of you will attest.) At the same time, we’re using a WordPress add-in to manage subscriptions. The WordPress add-in depends on AskWoody usernames.

    We’re sending out newsletters to both (1) folks who had Windows Secrets Newsletter accounts and (2) folks who have the new AskWoody Plus accounts. It’s dueling database time.

    Q: Will you honor my payment to Windows Secrets?

    Yes. Absolutely.

    Q: I paid by PayPal, but it said I was set up for recurring payments.

    PayPal and the AskWoody ordering system have a weird relationship. When you make a donation, PayPal sets up an automatic payment, pays the bill, then immediately discontinues the automatic payment. It makes no sense, but that’s how it works.

    If you check your PayPal account, there won’t be a recurring payment.

    I receive email notifications each time the auto payment is set up, when the account is charged, and when auto payment is turned off. If you’re concerned that PayPal has you on the hook for auto-renewals, write to me at CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com and tell me your PayPal account name (usually your email address). I’ll look it up just to make sure.

    I apologize. I’m seriously thinking about dropping PayPal support for just this reason!

    Q: I have an active Windows Secrets subscription, but I’m getting renewal notices.

    Usually that’s because the WSN data coming in isn’t complete. Any number of possible causes. The best solution, though, is to get you manually moved over to AskWoody.com, and pick up your subscription from there. Once you’ve registered here — you need an email address different from the one you use for Windows Secrets — write to me at CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com and we can make the switch manually.

    I hope to have an automated way to do all of that shortly. Will keep you posted.

    Q: When I went to register on AskWoody, I was notified that my email address was already in use. How do I get around this?

    The email address you use for the Windows Secrets Newsletter has been moved over to the AskWoody user database. Dueling databases. The easiest solution is to register on this site (use the Register link in the upper right corner) using any different email address you have. You’ll need to respond to a verification email sent to that different address.

    Once you’ve registered here, you can change your email address to anything you like. To change your email address (or password, for that matter), click on your picture in the upper right corner of this page, then click on Edit. 

    Q: I have a lifetime Windows Secrets Newsletter subscription. How do I get it switched over?

    Gotcha covered. With a lifetime subscription, you’ll get the AskWoody Plus Newsletters forever, but switching over to a Plus Membership (yes, lifetime, for free) will get you all of the new benefits. It’ll go faster if you first Register on this site and set up a username. Then write to me at CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com with your AskWoody username and we can make the switch manually.

    Q: I created an AskWoody username that’s the same as my Windows Secrets Newsletter username — which is to say, an email address.

    Not a good idea. Using your email address as a username means that any time you post on AskWoody, everybody can see your email address — and that’s not good for a zillion reasons.

    Best bet is to register a new AskWoody username (don’t use an email address!) using any different email address you have. You’ll need to respond to a verification email sent to that different address.

    Once you’ve registered here, you can change your email address to anything you like. To change your email address, click on your picture in the upper right corner of this page, then click on Edit. 

    Q: What do Windows Secrets loungers use for user name and password for accessing AskWoody? I tried my Windows Secrets user name and password, and it doesn’t work!

    We haven’t yet migrated the Windows Secrets Lounge over to the AskWoody Lounge. That’ll be another huge effort, with two additional dueling databases.

    Just to add to the fun ‘n games, the Windows Secrets Lounge passwords won’t carry over to the AskWoody site. They’re incompatible – and I wouldn’t want to be moving passwords around anyway.

    For now, feel free to register a new account on AskWoody. Ultimately, when we move the Windows Secrets Lounge over to AskWoody, I hope to have a relatively simple way to combine your old account with your new account.

    Q: Wait a sec. You’re covering CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com?

    Yep. I learned a long time ago that the best way to understand a system is to respond to questions and complaints. Until the dust settles, I’m tackling all of the questions personally. I really believe in this project.

  • An update on the Windows Secrets/AskWoody transformation

    Posted on January 2nd, 2019 at 15:54 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    We’ve been busy over the holidays….

    I hope to have the new Plus Membership routine up and working by tomorrow. Once we’re set for Plus donations (remember, you get to choose how much), I’ll post instructions, then slowly dismantle the advertising on AskWoody, and keep my fingers crossed.

    Tracey Capen is working furiously on the first AskWoody Plus Newsletter, which is on schedule for an early Monday morning release. All of the original crew is back — Brian, Susan, Fred and Tracey — and we have some original surprises afoot as well.

    Once again, sit tight. The transition won’t happen overnight, and the first few days (weeks? months?) are bound to be overwhelming, at least on this end. There’s a dynamite tech team pulling this through, and the software foundation’s rock solid.

    If we need you to do anything, we’ll let you know.

    The transition won’t be easy, but the results will be worth it. Guaranteed.

  • The mechanics of merging AskWoody, Windows Secrets Lounge and Windows Secrets Newsletter

    Posted on December 22nd, 2018 at 15:00 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    The devs are almost done with the first step in the merger, which is moving the plumbing over to support “AskWoody Plus” — the superstructure that’ll be tied into both the new Lounge, and the new Newsletter.

    I’m intentionally building the whole thing with tested, solid pieces — as little customization as possible. I’ve had many, many headaches over the past two decades with forum software that goes bump in the night. The Windows Secrets folks feel the same way, I’m sure. This time, I’m going to do it right. Or at least better.

    My major headache at this point is merging the data from many different sources:

    • The AskWoody username database, which will be the foundation of the new Lounge database. Many people signed up using throw-away email addresses. If they want to subscribe to the Newsletter or Alerts, I’ll have to get a valid email address out of them.
    • The Windows Secrets Lounge user database. There are going to be naming conflicts — situations where usernames in both databases match and they belong to the same person, and other situations where they match but they belong to different people. More than that, there’s no way to move the passwords from the Windows Secrets Lounge to the AskWoody Lounge user database. Two completely different systems.
    • The list of MVPs from Windows Secrets. They’ll become “Plus” members, but the potential for username conflicts carries over in spade.
    • The list of people who have already contributed to AskWoody – the Patrons list, which I just updated with the latest contributors. All of those people will become “Plus” members… but I only have the names you see on the list, no email addresses, no usernames. (That’s 100% intentional by the way. A story for another time.)
    • The list of subscribers to the Windows Secrets Newsletter. Again, I don’t have usernames. I only have email addresses.

    Those five sources have to combine to work with two separate databases, post-merger. The AskWoody username database, and a second linked database to drive MailChimp, our newsletter/alert distribution channel. The Lounge uses usernames. MailChimp only knows email addresses.

    I’m expecting to bring on a number of Customer Support people, because a lot of this is going to require human intervention. They’re going to be overwhelmed at first (I will be overwhelmed, too!) so be patient please.

    If you have any experience with merging big databases – or any words of wisdom – I’m all ears.

  • Big changes ahead for AskWoody and Windows Secrets

    Posted on December 20th, 2018 at 02:55 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    As of the end of the year, Penton/Informa media group is handing the Windows Secrets Newsletter and Lounge baton over to the people who started Windows Secrets years ago.

    Many of you will remember the original Windows Secrets “dream team” — Brian Livingston, co-author of 11 Windows Secrets books; Susan Bradley, Patch Watch diva; Fred Langa, author of LangaList, the ultimate tech Q&A; and yours truly with Woody’s Windows Watch and a bunch of books. All of us, along with former editor in chief Tracey Capen and many current and former newsletter contributors, are joining forces once again to launch a new AskWoody Plus Newsletter. Those of you who subscribe to the Windows Secrets Newsletter will see your subscriptions carry over, uninterrupted, to the AskWoody Plus moniker.

    We’re also merging the AskWoody and Windows Secrets Lounges. The new combined Lounge will sit on a software foundation that’s solid and reliable unlike, ahem, what we’ve had in the past. We’re implementing some of the features you’ve requested — email Plus Alerts, downloadable Patch Watch files, a reconstituted MS-DEFCON system, and much more. All of the AskWoody and Windows Secrets Admins and MVPs will make the trek. It’s a massive effort that’s going to bring all sorts of benefits to AskWoody and Windows Secrets Loungers.

    Both the new Newsletter and the new combined Lounge are tied together with a membership program called AskWoody Plus. If you join AskWoody Plus, you get the new Newsletter, the news Alerts, and full access to everything on the new combined Lounge.

    You’ll also get our thanks — and recognition, via a gold flare on your Lounge avatar — for helping us keep everything going. We’ll continue to hold Microsoft’s feet to the fire. We’ll keep you in the loop on important developments, and help you with palliative care on the demise of Windows 7. We’ll give you the straight story on where Windows and Office are headed, without the clickbait and garbled explanations you find on many other sites.

    AskWoody Plus works on the donation model — you can join for whatever amount you think fair. If you’d rather not join, that’s fine. New Loungers are most welcome, and there’s no charge.

    Changes in the plumbing are being tested right now. The hardest part of the transition will be merging databases, which won’t be easy, but we’ll take it in steps, and we’ll have human support available at all times. We’ll let you know if you need to do anything.

    For those of you who already get the Windows Secrets Newsletter, you’ll be automatically continued as a subscriber to the AskWoody Plus Newsletter. For those of you who have donated to AskWoody in the past year, we’ll set you up with a Plus Membership as well — no charge, with our thanks. Those of you who haven’t contributed are also in good hands — we’re carrying across both the AskWoody Loungers and the Windows Secrets Loungers of various stripes to the new combined Lounge.

    For now, sit tight. We’ll let you know if you need to do anything.

    Lisa Schmeiser, editor in chief, Windows Secrets Newsletter
    PKCano and Kirsty, AskWoody MVPs
    JoeP517, JWitalka, Rick Corbett, Satrow, Windows Secrets Admins

    Woody Leonhard, Eponymous Factotum

  • What happened to Windows Secrets?

    Posted on February 20th, 2018 at 03:05 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Just got an email from GW:

    This has gone on so many days, that I thought I’d ask you (even though this is the Askwoody address): When I try to access the Windows Secrets Lounge, at https://windowssecrets.com/forums/ (and this has been going on for many days) I get “This site can’t be reached
    windowssecrets.com refused to connect.”

    a) Can you tell me why?

    b) If it has truly disappeared, I think it would be nice to mention it on Askwoody. I’ve been gone for a few days, so it’s possible you did already mention it. Thanks for any clues, and hoping things are OK,

    This caught me flat-footed. As you know, I haven’t written for Windows Secrets Newsletter for several years — since August 2015, in fact. I had no idea the site was down but, looking at it now, sure enough — there’s nothing there, there. I have no idea what happened to it.

    WindowsSecrets.com began as BriansBuzz.com in February 2003. In July 2004, the service merged with WoodysWatch.com, and the combined site was renamed WindowsSecrets.com.

    Brian Livingston was the editorial director of WindowsSecrets.com from July 2004 to August 2010. The company was sold to iNet in late 2010, and iNet was sold to a US-based conglomerate called Penton Media in January 2015.  In September 2016, the British firm Informa plc bought Penton for $1.56 billion. As far as I know, Informa still holds the purse strings.

    As for WindowsSecrets.com… I haven’t a clue. I see that other Penton publications’ sites — notably WindowsITPro.com and WinSuperSite.com (Paul Thurrott’s original sites) — now  re-route to ITProToday, which is a name I haven’t heard before. As best I can tell, ITProToday doesn’t have a forum.

    Anybody out there know anything definitive?

    UPDATE: A few minutes ago, on Feb. 20, Windows Secrets Newsletter sent out a message that says:

    Hello to subscribers

    First, we’d like to apologize for the delay in reaching out. We had hoped that our service interruption would be only a day or two long, and we could resume publication last week. We were wrong.

    Here’s why you haven’t gotten a newsletter and you can’t access the site: There was an unprecedented hardware failure across several systems. The IT department has been working to remedy the failure and restore the affected sites from backups. We don’t have a timeline for restoration – but we don’t want you to think we’ve completely disappeared.

    You’ll receive double editions of the newsletter after the IT department has restored the site.

    Again, our apologies for not reaching out sooner. We’ll keep you informed of future developments.

    Interesting missive from a multi-billion-dollar company.

  • Install any version of Windows 7 from the Ultimate DVD – and get 120 free evaluation days to boot

    Posted on August 20th, 2009 at 08:16 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    My latest Windows Secrets Newsletter column just hit and it contains a couple of tricks that you might want to peruse.

    To my mind, the really amazing news is that you can install any version of Windows 7 – Ultimate, Pro, Home Premium, or the others – from any Windows 7 DVD. That means if you ripped or ripped off a copy of the final version of Windows 7 Ultimate, say, you can use the DVD (or ISO file) to install Windows 7 Home Premium.

    The trick doesn’t change the “bittedness” – if you have a 32-bit Windows 7 Ultimate DVD, you can only use it to install 32-bit copies of Home Premium, for example – but you can easily change the DVD so it’ll install Ultimate, Pro or Home Premium.

    Here’s why that’s important to those of you who have a copy of the Win7 Ultimate DVD (or ISO file). If you go ahead and install Win7 Ultimate right now, Microsoft gives you 30 days before you have to type in an activation key. If you use the trick in my Secrets column, you can extend the free time up to 120 days – which pushes you out beyond the October 22 ship date. So you can start to use the “real” Windows 7 right now, no sweat, perfectly legally in all respects.

    But if you install Windows 7 Ultimate right now, when time comes to activate, you have to supply an Ultimate key. And Win7 Ultimate costs two arms and two legs.

    Chances are good that you want to install Windows 7 Home Premium right now. (A few of you may really want Pro, but almost everybody will do just fine with Home Premium.) Unfortunately, unless you know the trick, that Windows 7 Ultimate DVD you have right now only installs Windows 7 Ultimate – and you’ll get stuck with either a whopping bill when Windows 7 ships, or you’ll be faced with re-installing Win7.

    So check out the column, follow the tricks, and get a copy of Home Premium installed right now. It’s all legal, all legit – if you know how.