Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Coming Windows 10 Push

Two months ago, I ran a piece on Windows 10 and how it spies on everything you do.  Briefly, it's the embodiment of the conventional wisdom about the online world: if something you're using is free, you're what's being sold.

Now comes word from Microsoft that Windows 10 will graduate from being Nagware - that daily popup box we get offering 10 - and become a "Recommended" update:
Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a “Recommended Update”. Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don’t love it.
I'm a bit torn on doing an upgrade.  I'm certainly not anti-technology and over the thirty-ish years I've been running a PC of some sort, I've tended to update OS not too long after the current one came out.  With Win 10, I don't know if this box will run it reliably and I sure am reading mixed comments on it including well-sourced reports that some of the big sellers' tech support lines are telling customers to uninstall it and go back to 7 or 8.  Unfortunately, the privacy issues aren't that simple to resolve.  In that September piece, I pointed out:
...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??
The problem with Windoze is that it's the 800 pound gorilla of the OS world.  More stuff is developed for Windows because more users are using Windows because more stuff is developed for Windows...   I have a couple of programs that appear to require Windows: Mathcad, Rhino, my 3d design program and Deskproto, the CAM program that creates tool paths for CNC.  The design program now offers a Mac version; the CAM program is Win only.  

It's not like there are lots of options to Windows.  There are several robust, well-established versions of Linux, but none of those three programs run under Linux.  There are Windows emulators and virtual machines, but those options expose you to the same risks that running Win 10 does anyway.  A Mac is a possible alternative, but fewer programs are available for the Mac OS machine - which I'd have to buy. Virtually all of the software I use day to day is available under Linux, or there's an equivalent Linux program I could run.  It's these few programs that are keeping me trying to find better ways to implement them.  A possible backup/plan C would be to move this Win 7 box to be firewalled off the 'net, and keep it just for running those programs.  Then I could get a simple box running Linux to do my day to day stuff that, none of which requires Windows.

It ends up being a very tedious and involved decision.  I suspect most people will just get Windows 10 and either fight through the "45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website" to turn off the monitoring, or ignore it and pretend it's not there.  


  1. Check this out:
    Found in a comment at I refuse to downgrade to W 10.

  2. One of Santa's helpers (AKA the Wifely Unit)
    has let slip that I am getting a new laptop this year, finally.
    I said I absolutely DO NOT WANT, Windows 10.

    Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

    Like you said, they are already backdooring 7 and 8 anyway.
    Since I am about teh stoopid when it comes to these things I may have to get a crash course in Linux.
    I played with it a bit last year and have it partitioned in this one somewhere.
    It's that whole Line Command thing that I have no clue about.
    IIRC, the Linux I had was very similar to Windows anyways.

    There will be much rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth going through this one and finding a way to transfer the things I want to save without pulling both of the hairs I have left out of my head.

  3. I installed Windows 10 on my 8.1 machine the day it became available. I turned off shut off, declined everything when I installed it Yes I know it still spies on me but so did 8 & 8.1 and 7 too. I like windows 10, startup is faster, everything runs well. I do need to figure out how to stop automatic updates though. I will update it I just want to do it on purpose not behind the curtain.

  4. I know exactly how you feel.

    I have two applications that depend on Windows, and will NOT run under WINE or the CodeWeavers "Crossover" stuff.

    One is PowerSDR that runs my Flex radio 5000A, and the other is the drivers and software for my Maxtrox High Definition video capture card.

    Those two machines will stay with Windows 7, and after Micro$oft stops supporting Win7, I'll just do my best to keep all the required anti-virus and anti-malware software updated, and pull the Ethernet cable out of the machine so it's off my LAN.

    When the two vendors stop supporting the software on Win 7 is another matter, which I haven't thought much about.

    Matrox still releases updates for the card, as does Adobe, who updates their Premiere Pro video editing suite that came bundled with the card.

    Flex Radio Systems has already said they'll be doing one final update for PowerSDR, but as with all things Flex, it's anybody's guess when that will happen, so I'm not holding my breath.

    The only thing I AM sure of is that Micro$oft is not getting one more dime from me......

  5. @Phil

    You mean the "Command Line Interface".

    It's not a requirement to learn it unless you really want to get into things.

    Current Linux distributions are about as Windows-like as you'll ever see.

    You can always boot from a "Live CD" to try different distributions (or "flavors") of Linux until you feel comfortable using one.

  6. Go Linux.
    If you set you criteria as "I must have applications X, Y and Z" you will never switch.
    Instead seek applications with the same functionality.
    Perhaps substitute Matchcad=>Matlab, and CNC control to LinuxCNC, etc
    Some of the windows apps that only operate on files and display to the screen might be run in a VM easily.

    I switched 10 years ago at home. As an EE, it's gotten to the point where most of the custom software I run at work is also available in a Linux environment.

    There's going to be a significant learning curve, but it's worth it. Once you learn a "free" tool, you have it essentially forever. And I actually have control over what runs on my PC.

  7. Dual boot. Default to your favorite flavor of Linux. But GRUB will give you an option to boot to Windoze during the boot process. Standard is 10 seconds to decide, after which it goes to the default OS, but GRUB Customizer lets you change that to any value you want, as well as change the default OS. And if you disable networking in Windoze, it will have a hard time sending anything to your Microsoft Overlords...

  8. Something I wasn't clear on - my fault for thinking I have the same group of readers here as always - is that I've been down this road to some degree before. Back in 2010/11, I changed my last PC over to dual boot and ran Ubuntu. Most everything I run everyday will run under (or is actually native to) Linux: Open Office, GIMP, pdf readers and creators, my checkbook program, and of course Firefox, Thunderbird and a few other things. Back then my PC was dual boot between Ubuntu and XP. I kept it for about 18 months, I think. The 11.10 update trashed my Linux partition and it never booted into Linux again. GRUB allowed me to boot to Windows and I was able to save everything. I'll take the blame for getting lax about upgrading Ubuntu and not backing up as well as I should have, but Ubuntu bears blame for trashing its partition.

    Rhino and Deskproto are problematic in that I don't know of any equivalent in the Linux world. Rhino has come out with a Mac OS version, and as part of figuring options, I asked them if I could move my license over from a Win license or Mac. There is a Linux program called EMC that does the actual machine control, but that's not what we're talking about here. Deskproto takes in extremely complex 3D models (it's great for jewelry) and turns them into the tool paths to drive EMC. Mathcad is the least problematic; I will be giving up decades worth of stuff I've solved before, but I should be able to translate those into another program.

  9. Here's two tips if the Linux O/S screws up.

    1) During the boot sequence, switch the machine off and on at the wall socket. Ubuntu (at least) will give you an option to revert back to a previous version of the O/S or boot into emergency mode.

    2) Install Linux on a memory stick and if the machine won't boot up correctly, you can press the appropriate key to change the settings before the the boot sequence during start. Make sure that you enable the boot sequence to boot from a USB port BEFORE the hard drive. It will then run off Linux on the memory stick and you can recover your files etc.

    If you can't afford a 8Gb memory stick then !!!!

    My solution to the problem of Windoze is to run a really old Linux machine (it still has a 3 1/2 floppy drive in it) for connecting to the web and a decent Windoze XP machine to run Solidworks, Autocad etc. which is NOT connected to the web.

    Phil B

  10. I've only run Windows in the home for EPSQ security questionnaire and for a goofy printer that my wife had. As OPM/DoD have graduated to EQIP and my wife hasn't used the printer for several years I ditched the Windoze boxes. Otherwise, everything has been Mac since they came out in 1984. Wife was Mac from a long time ago. If I need Windoze I use a virtual machine (VirtualBox by Oracle).
    However, with Apple getting more politically driven and Windoze going off the rails, I've switched over to Linux, specifically Mint 17.2. Does everything except Apple iMessage and Photostream. Syncing the iPhone and iPad to the Linux box is a little tedious but not impossible. And if I need the missing apps, I just use the iDevice as applicable. My wireless printer, dual monitors, USB audio, CAC card reader, and other stuff works, though it was a little work to get the printer and monitor to work correctly.
    But I'm happy. I know just what's in the machine, much more so than Windoze or Mac.

  11. Don't forget Boot Repair for Linux:

    Boot from a Live CD (use the "try Ubuntu without installing" option or equivalent) then follow the steps in the link. You can browse to that link from whatever browser is in your Live CD if necessary. It seems to do an excellent job fixing Linux boot problems, whether caused by a Linux update or Windoze or operator error, unless you have thoroughly hosed the Linux partition beyond repair...