Archive for Windows 10

Tech Tip – Night Light For Windows

If you leave your computer on and/or need to work late into the evenings, for example, the Windows 10 ‘night light’ feature enables the gradual limitation of the colour spectrum from your computer so that your body’s Melatonin (the bedtime-indicating chemical) isn’t impeded.

When a screen is left on it emits blue light which can keep you overly awake.  With the night light setting on, warmer colours are displayed which can help you sleep.  Windows knows what time zone your computer is in so scheduling it for your sunset and sunrise should be easy.

To activate night light:

Go to ‘Settings’, click on ‘System’.

Put night light ‘On’ and click on ‘night light settings’ to select ‘colour temperature’.  You will also see a ‘Turn on Now’ button to help you get the right colour temperature.

Under ‘Schedule’, toggle ‘Schedule night light’ to ‘On’.

Either select ‘Sunset to sunrise’ or select ‘Set hours’ and enter custom times for the night light to turn on and off.

Tech Tip – Using Your Windows Clipboard History

You may not have tried it, but if you need to clip up to 10 or more things to your windows clipboard (copy) and come back to them later, the clipboard that’s built-in to Windows 10 allows you to do this quickly and easily.

Here’s how to get the most out of the clipboard:

In the first instance, hit the Windows key + v.  This will give you the option to turn the clipboard function on.

Once turned on, hit Windows key + v.  You’ll be shown a list of the items currently on your clipboard e.g. text segments you’ve copied. Click on an item to paste it into your current page.

The icons (top right) also give you the option to delete or pin clipboard items i.e. keep them when you clear your clipboard history or when restart your PC.

In Settings, you can also choose to turn the feature off or choose to sync your clipboard across your other Windows devices so your desktop and laptop can share a clipboard history.

New AI Feature For Microsoft Word Online To Improve Your Writing

The new ‘Ideas’ feature, an AI-powered editor in the cloud for Microsoft Word is intended to provide intelligent suggestions to make your writing more concise, readable, and inclusive.

Ideas

The new ‘Ideas’ feature, which is already being used with PowerPoint and Excel, is likely to be a value-adding improvement on traditional grammar and spelling checks because it is designed to help with the reading and writing of (online) Word documents.

The feature announced at Microsoft 2019 and scheduled for testing in June, will be able to follow along as you write, offer familiar fixes for spelling and grammatical errors, suggest improvements, be able to detect nuances in language and even suggest rewrites for tricky phrases or clunky paragraphs.

The Ideas feature will also be able to help with the reading of Word documents by, for example, providing estimated reading times, extracting key points, and decoding acronyms using data from the Microsoft Graph.

British Company Wins Google Money For AI

It’s not just Microsoft that’s making the news this week for its ongoing pursuit of augmenting its products and services with AI and machine learning.

British fact checking company Full Fact has just been named among the 20 winners of Google’s AI Impact Challenge.  The award will mean that they will receive a share of 19.1 million dollars worth of Google investment as well as consultation help and mentoring from Google.  The AI Impact Challenge from Google asked for organisations to submit ideas on how to use AI to help address societal challenges.  For Full Fact, this involved ideas about how to use AI to combat the kind of misinformation that affects millions of people’s health, safety and ability to participate in society, and is considered by many to be a threat to democracy in many countries.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The addition of an AI-powered, cloud-based enhancement to Microsoft’s online version of Word is considered to be the next, more intelligent step onwards from enhancements like predictive text.  It also offers Microsoft a way to compete with popular grammar programs such as Grammarly, and it will be interesting to see how such companies respond to Microsoft’s ‘Ideas’ feature.

The ‘Ideas’ feature is likely to be particularly good news for journalists and other writers as it will presumably be able to make the low-level composing work a little easier and may be able to save time and add value to their work.  It may even help Microsoft reach its aim of enabling people to design documents for maximum readability, and in doing so, make the workday more productive for many people.

One area where AI is predicted to offer some real promise in the near future is in the (cloud-based) cyber security market.  For example, the Visiongain ‘Artificial Intelligence in Cyber Security Market Report’ for 2019-2029 values the 2019 AI in cyber security market at $4.94bn.  Cloud-based cyber security that incorporates AI could prove to a cost-effective and affordable source of protection for SMEs and large enterprises.

Microsoft’s Move Away From Passwords Towards Biometrics

In a recent interview with CBNC, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President and Chief Information Officer Bret Arsenault signalled the corporation’s move away from passwords on their own as a means of authentication towards (biometrics) and a “passwordless future”.

Passwords – Not Enough On Their Own

Many of us are now used to two-factor authentication e.g. receiving a code via text or using apps such as Google Authenticator as a more secure way of using passwords.  Mr Arsenault also notes that hacking methods such as “password spraying”, where attackers attempt to access large numbers of accounts at once using some of the most commonly used passwords, are still effective and highlight the weakness of relying on passwords being used on their own.  Mr Arsenault highlights how damaging this can be for businesses where a hacker can get password/employee identity and use this to gain access to a whole network. This is one of the reasons why many businesses, including Microsoft, are moving away from the whole idea of passwords.

Setting Example – Biometrics

Microsoft is one of the most-attacked companies in the world, and this, combined with reports of the billions of password hack incidents worldwide, have driven the company to move beyond passwords.

For example, 90% of Microsoft’s 135,000 workforce can now log into the company’s corporate network without passwords using biometric technology such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning via apps such as ‘Windows Hello’ and the ‘Authenticator’ app.

Also Uses Federated Cybersecurity

In addition to rejecting passwords for biometrics, Microsoft also uses a federated cybersecurity model.  This means that each Microsoft product has its own head of cybersecurity and that ethical hackers are actively encouraged to attack the company’s networks and products to test for flaws.

Scrapping Password Expiration Policies

Microsoft has announced that it is scrapping its password expiration policies in Windows 10 arguing that password expiration is an out of date method of data protection.  Users will now effectively be forced to update their passwords every few months once the Windows 10 May 2019 has been rolled out.

Other Tech Companies Moving Away From Passwords

Other tech companies that are known to be moving away from passwords towards biometrics and other methods include Google which has been testing USB key fobs which plug into customers’ computers and provide a second factor of authentication and Cisco which acquired dual-factor authentication start-up Duo in 2018.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As Microsoft points out, multi-factor authentication is more secure than relying on just a password for authentication, as password spraying and credential stuffing are widely in use and are still yielding good results for hackers.  As a recent National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) survey has shown, many people still rely upon weak passwords, with ‘123456’ featuring 23 million times, making it the most widely-used password on breached accounts. There is a strong argument, therefore, for many businesses to look, as Microsoft is looking, towards more secure biometric methods of authentication, and towards a “passwordless future”.

Even though biometrics has been shown to make things incredibly difficult for cybercriminals to crack it, biometrics has not proven to have been 100% successful to date.  For example, a Reddit user recently claimed to have used a 3D printer to clone a fingerprint and then use that fake fingerprint to beat the in-display fingerprint reader on a Samsung Galaxy S10. Also, there was the report of the Twitter user who claimed to have fooled Nokia 9 PureView’s fingerprint scanner by using somebody else’s finger, and then just a packet of chewing gum, and of the incident back in May 2017 where a BBC reporter said that he’d been able to fool HSBC’s biometric voice recognition system by passing his brother’s voice off as his own.

There is no doubt that the move away from passwords to biometrics is now underway, but we are still in the relatively early stages.

No Windows 10 Updates For PCs With USB Devices or SD Cards Attached

Microsoft has announced that if your PC has a USB device or SD card attached it will not be possible to upgrade the computer to the Windows 10 May 2019 Update because of an “Inappropriate drive reassignment” issue.

The Scenario

On its support site, Microsoft has announced that an attempt to upgrade a computer with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update will result in an error message being displayed if the following three factors are in place:

  1. You’re running a Windows-10 based computer that has either the April 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1803) or the October 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1809) installed.
  2. An external USB device or SD memory card is attached to the computer.
  3. You try to upgrade the computer to the May 2019 Update, or you have automatic updates turned on in the Windows Update settings.

Inappropriate Drive Reassignment

Microsoft says that the upgrade will not be able to occur in these situations because of the risk of inappropriate drive reassignment.  For example, a user may have booted Windows from external storage and may have left an external storage device (USB device or SD memory card) attached during the installation of the May 2019 upgrade.  Prior to the upgrade, the external device would have been mounted in the system as drive G based on the existing drive configuration, but after the upgrade, the device is reassigned a different drive letter e.g. H.  This is a situation that Microsoft is trying to avoid – hence the error message and the blocking of computers with external devices attached from receiving the upgrade.

The Workaround

According to Microsoft, the simple workaround is to remove the external media and restart the May 2019 Update installation.

Microsoft also says that the issue will be resolved in a future servicing update for Windows 10, and for Windows Insiders, the issue is resolved in build 18877 and later builds.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There is more than just a small element of Microsoft being cautious in issuing this error message and putting out information about the nature of the issue and workaround, after the many problems and bugs that led to Build 1809 having to be withdrawn after a few weeks before a re-issue. This time, Microsoft wants good publicity and good customer experience for its ongoing WaaS strategy.

If you’re planning to upgrade Windows 10 with the May 2019 Update and you want things to go smoothly, the advice is to make sure that you don’t have external storage devices connected to the computer at the same time.

Microsoft 365 Business Subscription Customers Get Shared Computer Activation (SCA)

SMEs that need to have multiple users (connecting to and using the same remote computer) but only have a (less-expensive) Microsoft 365 Business subscription have been given a boost by Microsoft in the form expanded rights with the imminent roll-out of SCA for Microsoft 365 Business.

What Is SCA?

Shared Computer Activation (SCA) is a service that allows a business to deploy Office 365 on a computer that is accessed by multiple users.

SCA That Doesn’t Count Against The Device Limit

The latest announcement from Microsoft means that Microsoft 365 Business subscribers (who would normally only be able to install and activate the Office 365 Business Client on a limited number of devices such as 5 PCs) will, with the roll-out from 30th April, be able to benefit from being able to use the Office 365 Business Client with shared computer activation enabled in a way that doesn’t count against that device limit.

Where It’s Useful

Situations (where this can add value and be useful to SMEs) include :

  • Multiple workers on different shifts at the same premises needing to use a shared computer with each worker using Excel on that computer during their shift to track orders & shipments.
  • Multiple workers use Word on shared computers at a work station throughout the day to create reports from a template.
  • Business owners and accounts staff can connect remotely to a Windows 2016 Server running Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to use Excel and the company’s accounting software.
  • Field service employees use Office on a computer that’s located in a conference room to update/write reports.
  • Remote workers connect from home connect to Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD) in Azure with Office installed to work on specific accounts/records.

Limitations

It is important to note that M365 Business does not include Office 365 Pro Plus, just the activation rights in the existing business client that comes in M365B.  The new SCA rights in M365 Business will, therefore, still require that each user be licensed, because companies can’t legally share Office on a single PC among, e.g. 5 users, where only three are covered by M365 Business licenses.

Also, users can only share the Windows, not a Mac version of Office on an SCA-covered machine.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although Microsoft is not giving anything away as such with the SCA rights in M365 Business, it is, however, introducing something that takes account of how some industries need to work with software in real life i.e. computers often need to be  shared by multiple users with different user profiles, and multiple users in some businesses need to connect to the same remote computer at the same time. In this respect, it may add a great deal of value for many businesses, and in doing so, may help gain and retain customers, and lead to new opportunities for Microsoft.

SMEs are likely to welcome this added value service from Microsoft as they may have been stuck between having to choose E3 (without SCA), saving costs, and try to implement time-consuming workarounds to get more out of what they had.

Even though the roll-out date starts on April 30th, it may take a couple of months before the full roll-out is completed.

Windows 10 Breaks Traditional PC Windows 10 Breaks Traditional PC Hardware and OS Upgrade LinksHardware and OS Upgrade Links

With figures (Gartner) showing Windows 10 predicted to represent 75% of the professional PC market by 2021, continued PC sales and improved Windows 10  back-end management, Windows 10 is making (historically) time and resource consuming Windows OS and hardware upgrade projects a thing of the past, and is breaking the link between the two.

Mobile PCs A Popular Business Choice For Content Creation

Even though the whole global PC market is in decline, traditional PCs are set to decline by 3% in 2019 to total 189 million units, and smartphones are users’ primary mobile devices, mobile PCs look set to remain popular purchases for businesses because they are needed for content creation.

With laptop PCs running Windows 10, this is a key reason why Windows 10 represents such a large share of the professional PC market.

The SaaS model with its automatic bi-annual automatic upgrades is, therefore, the step to making teams responsible for OS upgrades in businesses a thing of the past.

Left Behind and At Risk

The growth, popularity, and general effectiveness of Windows10, coupled with the ending of support for older versions is making businesses still running older platforms (e.g. Windows 7) and thinking of putting off the upgrade to Windows 10 until 2020 look likely to be left behind in IT effectiveness terms, and at risk in security terms (support for Windows 7 is scheduled to end in January 2020).

Businesses are also realising that:

  • They can’t skip a version i.e. waiting and skipping to Windows 11 is not an option – migration to Windows 10 may as well happen sooner rather than later.
  • Windows 10 is a modern operating system that allows organisations to run cloud applications and provide security much more effectively.
  • Microsoft has aligned upgrades of its cloud productivity suite, Office 365, to Windows 10, so not switching to Windows 10 could mean a competitive disadvantage.
  • Windows 10 enables businesses to automatically receive new, potentially value-adding features every six months.

Changing The Nature of Upgrades

With most businesses using Windows 10 and receiving automatic software upgrades every month, and more enterprise applications being consumed as software as a service (SaaS), hardware upgrades are more likely to be driven by wear and tear in future rather than by the availability of a new PC operating system from Microsoft.  This is the reason why Windows 10 has effectively disconnected the link between PC hardware and Windows operating system upgrades.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Figures show that laptop PCs with Windows 10 loaded on them are (and will continue to be for the near future) an important tool for many businesses, and that the automatic bi-annual upgrade and SaaS model of Windows 10 has disconnected the traditional link between PC hardware and Windows operating system upgrades.  The migration to Windows 10 can also not only free up resources once needed just to ensure OS upgrades, but can also improve security, competitiveness and operational effectiveness. 

Windows 10’s successes and the weaknesses and threats of holding out until 2020 before upgrading are presenting strong arguments for businesses to take the plunge sooner and move to Windows 10.

Serious Windows 7 Bug Reported

Google has warned those who are still using Windows 7 that they are at risk of hackers being able to take over their computer by exploiting the combination of a flaw in the Window 7 OS and Google’s Chrome Browser.

Google Alert

The threat to Windows 7 comes from combined flaws in its OS, and a flaw in Google Chrome.  It was Google that announced the discovery of the zero-day vulnerability CVE-2019-5786 in Chrome.

A zero-day vulnerability is one that gives Google, for example, zero days to find a fix because it is already being exploited.  In this case, Clement Lecigne, a security researcher at Google, discovered the vulnerability which resides the Chrome web browsing software and could impact upon all major operating systems, not just Windows 7, although Windows 7 is vulnerable because it’s a 10-year-old OS in its final year of official support from Microsoft.

Details of the exact nature of the flaw in Googles’ Chrome are not abundantly clear at this point, but it has been described as a use-after-free vulnerability in the FileReader component of the Chrome browser. The FileReader is a standard API that enables web applications to asynchronously read the contents of files stored on a computer.  This essentially means that the flaw in Google’s Chrome provides a way in for hackers who can use it to transfer attack code from Chrome into other applications to help them compromise a machine.

The Windows 7 Side

The flaw in Windows 7 is reported to be in the very core elements that are supposed to stop the data in one program interacting with anything outside that application.

Combined

The combination of these two flaws means that hackers could use Google’s Chrome Browser to take over a computer running Windows 7.

What Can You Do?

The advice from security commentators is (unsurprisingly) to upgrade to Windows 10.  The advice from Google is to make sure that Google Chrome is up to date. You can do this by clicking on the three stacked dots (top right) in Chrome, selecting ‘Help’ and ‘About Google Chrome’, which takes you to the settings page chrome://settings/help.  If it says that you’re running Version 72.0.3626.121 (Official Build) you have the updated version.  If not, you need to update Chrome to the latest version.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

According to Mr Lecigne, the Google security researcher, there is only evidence of active exploitation against Windows 7 32-bit systems, but it is alarming that a security flaw exists in the core elements of the OS. Since the real risk comes from the combination of a flaw in both Chrome and Windows 7, updating Chrome, which only takes a matter of minutes should provide protection (for the time being) from this risk, although it’s not possible to know what other zero-day bugs are waiting to be discovered.

This story shows the importance of keeping software up to date and patched and is likely to put more pressure on those businesses still using Windows 7 to make the switch to Windows 10.  The fact is though that Windows 7 is still a popular operating system with 37% market share and switching to Windows 10 has cost and time implications in terms of identifying any issues in individual environments and project planning.  The 14th Jan 2020 end of official support date for Windows 7 and the discovery of this kind of OS flaw being made public may now mean that businesses that have been holding out may simply feel that it’s time to bite the bullet and start the shift to Windows 10.

New, Free Windows 10 Microsoft Office App Launched

Microsoft has announced the launch of its new “Office” app for Windows 10 which is an update to the former My Office app, will come preinstalled on Windows 10 machines and will provide access to an online version of Office for those who don’t have a subscription for Office 365.

Simply “Office”

The new, free app simply named “Office” can be used with ‘almost’ any version of Microsoft Office means that those who do have a 365 subscription and have Microsoft’s apps installed on their device can open Office from the Office app, and those who don’t have a subscription will be automatically directed to the online version.  Like Google Drive, this online version features the user’s recent documents on the home screen, which is in keeping with the idea that users should be able to find what they want quickly. Users can also share files with each other and can find content relevant to them but created by colleagues within their organisation.

Features

The new app includes helpful features such as tutorials and tricks for Microsoft’s apps and services, and users can see every Office app available to them by clicking on “Explore all your apps”.

Office also allows customisation so that businesses can brand it. Users also have access to third-party apps and Microsoft Search.

When and How?

Microsoft says that the Office app will become available to users on a rolling basis over the next few weeks and that it will be installed automatically as an update to the MyOffice app, which comes pre-installed as part of Windows.

You can search for “Office” in the search bar of the Windows start menu to open the app. The new app can also be downloaded from the Microsoft Store if needed.

Users can sign in to the app with their work, school, or free personal Microsoft Account to get started.

The Office app should work with any Office 365 subscription, Office 2019, Office 2016, and Office Online (the free web-based version of Office).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Launching this Office app is a way of Microsoft being able to publicise, raise awareness about, and get more people using its free online versions of Office.

The app, which also allows Microsoft to compete with its rival Google Drive, should be quite appealing to business users thanks to features such as the ability to customise and brand it, the fact that it allows access third-party apps using AAD through the Office app, and the Microsoft Search feature that works across the organisation in addition to the user’s own apps and documents.

Having a free Office app that’s available without the need for an Office 365 subscription will also help address the problem of a mistaken assumption from many people that Office simply comes as part of Windows.

Tech Tip – Link your Android Phone To Your Windows PC or Laptop

If you’ve ever emailed yourself a photo or screenshot to get it from your phone to your computer or uploaded photos to e.g. Google Photos or Dropbox and then download them onto your PC, you may want to try Microsoft’s ‘Your Phone’ app.  With the app, you can link and sync your Android phone to your Windows PC or laptop and simply drag and drop photos or screenshots, plus you can receive and send text messages from your phone on your computer. Here’s how to set it up:

This works for PCs or laptops running Windows 10 April 2018 Update (Version 1803) or later, and Android phones running Android 7.0 Nougat or later.  Both devices should be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

On your PC or laptop, type “Your Phone” in the search bar, scroll to launch Microsoft Store, find the “Your Phone” app.

Download and install the Your Phone app for Windows 10 from Microsoft e.g. here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/your-phone/9nmpj99vjbwv?activetab=pivot%3Aoverviewtab

Next, install the counterpart on your Android phone. For example, when you launch the app on your PC, type your number in to receive the install the app link via text on your phone. Alternatively, you could visit the Google Play Store, type “Your Phone Companion” into the search bar and then Install the app on your Android phone.

The two apps should sync, and once you’ve answered and granted the permissions questions on your phone, you should see your phone appear in the Windows “Your Phone” app on your computer.

Click to access recent photos or messages + see the Settings page.