Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Running Windows X?

I'm curious how many of my readers took the free update to Windows X.  As I posted when I first heard about it, Microsoft is changing their business model for 10, er, X.  Not simply giving it away but aggressively pushing it on users of 7 and 8.  Being a bit of a cautious guy, I figured I'd keep an eye on feedback online and an ear among my software engineer friends at work.

Turns out, Windows X is spying on just about everything you do.  The funny thing is, they seem to have left avenues open for users to opt out of it, and they're hoping betting you never do. So they bury those details in the End User's License Agreement (the EULA).
Well, here is Microsoft’s 12,000-word service agreement. Some of it is probably in English. We’re pretty sure it says you can’t steal Windows or use Windows to send spam, and also that Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child if it so chooses. And that’s only one of several documents you’ll have to read through.
(Since a Dilbert cartoon about it ages ago, instead of joking about "Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child", we always refer to agreeing to be Bill Gates' towel boy).  The tech site Rock Paper Shotgun  (great name!) has a good feature article on the ways to try to get some of your privacy back and a good perspective on what's going on.  When Microsoft says "Free Windows X", they're using the word in the new internet sense:  if something you're using is free, you're what's being sold. 
Conventional wisdom has it that Microsoft’s fight for technological relevance is against Apple. For a time that was true, but as of late they’ve effectively ceded the floor to the Cupertino mob when it comes to hardware (although I hope the Surface Pro line continues – I’m a big fan) and have once again narrowed their computing focus to software. The battle there is against Google, whose search, browser and productivity tools increasingly form a loose, web-based operating system. People aren’t so hot on paying for things these days, which means the money comes from harvesting data and flogging it to advertisers and other organisations who want to know exactly what we’re all up to online. Microsoft want a piece of that, so if you ever wondered why they’ve made the Windows 10 upgrade free to Win 7 & 8 users, here’s one possible answer. Windows 10 has all sorts of user tracking baked right in.

Importantly, you can opt out of what seems to be all this stuff (time will tell) either during installation or afterwards, though Microsoft swaddle it in a combination of dissembling “hey, this stuff’ll really help you get the information you want’ fluff and 45 pages of service agreement documents. I’ll refer you here and here for a detailed breakdown of the really worrying stuff, but the long and short of it is the operating system assigns you a unique advertising ID, which is is tied to the email address you’ve associated with Windows and fed data from a great many facets of your computer usage. Including the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, some purchases and whatever you upload to Microsoft’s unreliable OneDrive cloud storage. Using the Cortana search assistant makes the harvest even more aggressive, and of course the OS claims it’s all in the name of a better, more accurate online experience for you. [emphasis added - SiG]
As unsettling as that might be if you're expecting even a little privacy, there are also reports (another) that some of the Windows X tracking tools are being pushed into the automatic updates that Windows 7 and 8 users are getting, too.  They've changed the "Terms of Service Agreement" for their Windows Store and given themselves the right to sniff you're computer's butt to detect and uninstall any pirated first-party XBox and Windows games you have installed.  They even claim the right to disable “unauthorized hardware peripheral devices”.  While I don't play games more modern than Freecell and wouldn't be affected by that change at all, I'm a bit put off by the "unauthorized hardware" statement.  How would my OS know if my hardware is authorized and what does unauthorized hardware even mean?  If I have it, I either bought it or traded for it: either way, it's mine.  What exactly are they talking about and what exactly are they going to do??

I kind of like the way Rock Paper Shotgun captures the big picture here:
The other issue here is that Microsoft simply aren’t making it clear enough that they’re doing this, how it might affect you and how to opt out – despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how “real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.”

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes “real transparency.”
(Dilbert for January 14, 1997)


  1. Your noted changes in Win7 and Win8 to match WinX's data collection are not just a report, it's a fact. I have the email on my NMCI machine from my security buddies showing which patches add the data collection and how to disable/remove them. I'll send them home and Comment them here. OBTW, these patches override your already set up security controls...
    I'm actually thinking about going to Solaris 11 with Trusted Extensions, with a Labeled Zone for each different operation. Use VirtualBox to generate Win/Linux/Mac virtual machines in the Labeled Zones if I can't do the work in Solaris.
    "The software said I required Windows 95 or better, so I got a Mac"

  2. I downloaded Windows 10 on the first day it was available. I hated 8 and 8.1 was only slightly better. I like tothink I'm the reason why they wrote 10 and released it so quick because I have been a thorn in their but for a couple of years ;.)
    I also deleted everything I could after downloading it like Cortina for example
    Within a month I bought another laptop (keeping the old one too) and downloaded 10 to it as well. Again I opted out of everything I could and deleted all the programs I could. I'm old fashioned I simply want my operating system to allow me to run the programs I want not to fill up the que with things I don't want.

    Mostly I like windows 10. But within a week of downloading it their web browser, Microsoft edge, caught a virus and it is unusable. Can't remember the name of the virus and I'm not going to open it again to see waht the name is but it's kaput! So I'm using the old internet explorer.

    My pet peeve is the apps. I have some 40-60 apps, BUT I don't have them. If you click on one of them to see what it is/does it basically offers you the opportunity to buy it. Same thing with Windows 8. What's that all about? Window 8 & 10 seem to be a sales tool masquerading as an operating system.

  3. My wife's granddaughter's laptop came with 8.1, and try as I could, I could not stop it from upgrading to win 10.

    It looked suspiciously like Lenovo and Micro$oft conspired on this, but who knows.

    I was "lucky" to be among those fortunate enough to catch Micro$oft's 1st official update for Win10! You know, the one that BRICKED thousands of machines......

    I wound up having to use the restore partition Lenovo forces you to use (no media supplied, and NO WAY to make your own recovery media!) to revert back to 8.1, and then after downloading all the updates, but before they started installing, I killed the network connection to it. I then went through all the updates by hand, and removed all the ones the various websites indicated had anything to do with the Win 10 "upgrade". I also tagged them as "hidden", which generally black-lists them.

    Rebooted it with NO network connection (I even removed the WiFi card to make doubly sure!), and let it update.

    So far it appears to be stable, but God only knows what Micro$oft has up it's collective sleeve.....

  4. I'm strictly Mac OS, but I've got to believe .gov has access to all the personal data developed by Windows 10 (if it didn't already have it via 7 & 8).

    Yeah, yeah, before all the Windoze fan-boys start screeching, I'm sure Apple is in bed with them too. I'll bet Apple makes them buy dinner first, though, where Microsoft (named after Gates' genitals) just bends over with a smile.

  5. As soon as I read online about Windows 10's intrusive and web-based presence, I installed Ubuntu 15.10 on my main home machine and on my wife's machine. There's a couple programs we miss (e.g., Irfanview) but overall, we're happy, and we're leaving Microsoft behind.

    I have rebooted into Windows once to run a CAD program I couldn't get working on Wine, and my wife has stayed in Ubuntu, since she has all the programs she needs for daily use: browser (Chrome), email (Thunderbird), photo editing (Shotwell), office apps (LibreOffice).

    I have one other Windows machine for my ham radio stuff, which is Windows-only. I won't be upgrading that to Windows 10. Instead, I'll keep on the lookout for ham radio programs I can run on Linux (already found FLDigi). Know a good replacement for Echolink?

  6. Backwoods Engineer, I hope you understand that the Google is every bit as foul as Microslop and Crapple. Chrome has as many holes as Exploder, and as I understand it, the Google has even stuffed exploits back into the open source Chromium browser, without getting permission to do so.

  7. I'm continually reminded of a statement from a great sage (unfortunately, I can't remember who): "If you're using 'free' software, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT!"



  8. I'm stuck with Windoze to run my Flex Radio 5000.

    For EchoLink, try this:


  9. I hate to break this to you, Ed, but even if you are PAYING for the software, you are STILL the product. At least if you go with open source software, whether it's free or not, you have a decent chance of know what it is doing to you. With closed source software, well, good luck! But then again, surely Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt and Larry Page and Marissa Mayer would never lie to you...