Falling Into an Update

I decided to try something different this time around.

Microsoft released the Fall Creators Update, the latest and greatest version of Windows 10, a few days ago. You probably haven’t gotten it yet, because they roll it out in batches.

The first batch goes to computers they’re absolutely sure it’ll install cleanly on. After that, they start pushing it out to machines they’re progressively less confident about. It’s a reasonable approach. When problems arise, as they inevitably will, they can include the fixes with the next batch.

But it means some users may have to wait a long time for the update, as I found out with the previous update. Counting the little Windows tablet, I’ve got three computers running Windows 10. I upgraded the tablet manually in April when the “Creators Update” was released–I had to do it by hand because it doesn’t have enough disk space to install it automatically. One of the desktops got the update in July. The other didn’t get it until September.

It’s not that having two different versions of Windows 10 running caused me any technical problems. Frankly, the two versions behaved a heck of a lot alike. But it tweaked that part of my brain that gets compulsive about numbers.

So I decided that for the Fall Creators Update, I’d do all three machines manually. Not simultaneously. I’m not that compulsive. But in sequence.

I don’t actually need any of the features in this update. I’m curious about Microsoft’s Augmented Reality implementation, but I don’t think any of my machines have enough muscle to actually run AR software. Goddess knows I haven’t been looking forward to the ability to pin a contact to the task bar. So really, I could have waited until one got the update and then done the other two, but I got impatient.

As I write this, Computer One is running the upgrade. It’s been going for about half an hour and it says it’s 80% complete. Of course, this is a Microsoft progress indicator, and they’re well-known for making optimistic estimates. But in any case, I’ll wait until Computer One finishes the update before I start Computer Two. And I’ll make sure that one is done and functional before I start the tablet.

Barring the unexpected–and with an OS upgrade, one should always expect the Spanish Inquisitionunexpected–I should be running the Fall Creators Update on all three computers before bedtime tonight.

And come February, when the rest of you are finally getting the update, I’ll just laugh, because I’ll have been not using the ability to pin contacts to the task bar for months.

Seriously, though, if you can’t wait to dip a toe into the Fall Creators Update, the Windows 10 Download page is here. Click “Update Now” and follow the prompts. Eventually–I’m now up to 86% on Computer One–you can experience the thrill of being on the cutting edge of Microsoft technology.

(You do realize I wrote this whole post as an excuse to watch that Monty Python clip, right?)

As Predicted

Ha! Nailed it!

Pardon my excitement, but I’m not used to seeing my predictions come true so quickly. Last week I suggested that Microsoft would “encourage” diehard Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10 by making the upgrade tool a “Recommended” update in Windows Update. And now several reputable technology sites, including ArsTechnica, are reporting that Microsoft will do exactly that.

If you haven’t already upgraded, you’ll see Windows 10 showing up as an “Optional” update soon, and early next year, it will switch to “Recommended” status. Users who let Windows install updates automatically (the default for non-business users) will see the installer prompting them to carry out the upgrade once the flag is flipped to recommended.

Note that you will be prompted–it won’t be a silent install that suddenly drops you into Windows 10–and you can hide the update in Windows Update to prevent it from being installed, but that could certainly change, especially after the “Upgrade free until July” period.

Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 hard. After October 31, 2016, you won’t be able to buy a new computer with an older version of Windows pre-installed. Windows 7 will still get security updates into January of 2020, but which bugs get fixed is completely at Microsoft’s discretion. As we saw with XP, the number of security flaws deemed not worth fixing grows rapidly as the end of support approaches.


Not all of my predictions come true. After last year’s correct call of the Giants over the Royals in seven games, I had high hopes for the Mets this year.

Unfortunately, the Royals had other ideas. Not only did they stomp the Mets into submission, they didn’t even take the full seven games. A true shame.

New York had good, solid pitching, but as I’ve said before, pure defense will only get you so far. You still need to score runs to win. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but to a significant extent the Mets relied on Yoenis Cespedes to spark their offense for much of the second half of the regular season. When he went cold in the playoffs, Daniel Murphy took over the ignition duties, but nobody (ahem) stepped up to the plate in the World Series after Murphy’s home run streak ended.

Full credit here to KC: they just plain outplayed the Mets–and everyone else they faced in the playoffs–to earn the title. But it’s still disappointing that we only got a five game Series.

Ah well. Back to cooking contests on Food Network to keep me entertained.

Only 108 days until the start of Spring Training.

What Next?

Don’t mind me. I’m feeling the need to indulge my paranoid side today. No, this isn’t going to be about tinfoil hats to prevent the NSA from reading my next novel (or, for that matter, any of the previous ones) before it’s published. It’s about Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer.

The offer, for anyone who’s been asleep for the past ten months, is a free upgrade from Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 8.1 to 10. The odd gotcha is that the offer will expire one year after Windows 10 was released, i.e. the end of July 2016. So what happens then?

Presumably, Microsoft figures that everyone who’s going to take advantage of FREE will have done so by August, even the people who take pride in being “late adopters” (the “let someone else find the bugs” crowd).

In January, I suggested that Microsoft might up the ante and try paying users of older operating systems to upgrade, but in reality, that’s unlikely to happen. It would be expensive–for any reasonable incentive amount, the cost of managing the program would probably exceed the total amount of the payouts–and most likely wouldn’t pick up more than a small percentage of the holdouts.

Slight digression: Electronic break-ins are becoming more and more visible. It seems reasonable to assume that large retailers would prefer to shift the liability for credit card thefts to the card services. They, naturally, don’t want to be liable either. I can easily see Visa, Mastercard, and Amex mounting a push to establish software liability, letting them shift costs to vendors who supply software exploited to facilitate break-ins.

At the same time, the argument between personal privacy and law enforcement access is getting louder. My gut says that we’re going to see a period of time where the public by and large becomes increasingly intolerant of security failures.

XP–which, you’ll note, is not covered by the upgrade offer–is no longer supported by Microsoft, and Vista and Seven will become unsupported over the next couple of years. That means no security fixes.

In an environment in which Microsoft could be held liable for break-in that exploits an OS bug (and let’s not forget that huge numbers of ATMs run XP), what’s their best strategy for dealing with old operating systems? Get rid of them.

The Windows 10 upgrade is being delivered through Windows Update, even to computers that haven’t requested it–Microsoft says it’s so the software will be available if users decide to upgrade in the future. It’s flagged as “optional,” which means it won’t be installed automatically, but that can be changed easily enough. In fact, earlier this month it was being pushed by default. It could have been an error as Microsoft says–in fact it probably was–but even if it was, it still serves as a proof of concept.

There are several opportunities to cancel the installation if it starts accidentally, but Microsoft could easily release a new version of the installer that doesn’t have an obvious “Don’t Do It!” button.

Or, if they were really sneaky, they could dispense with the installer completely. What if they included a few Windows 10 files with each update to the earlier OSes and stashed them somewhere on the hard drive? When the switchover date arrives, they could push out a “security update” that updates the bootloader to point to that hidden folder, and presto! After the next reboot, you’re running Windows 10. Granted, I’m oversimplifying the process–among other concerns, some provision would need to be made for machines too old to run Windows 10–but it could be done more or less like this.

Think Microsoft wouldn’t force customers to a new version of Windows? Keep in mind that they’re explicitly billing Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows“. From that perspective, it’s not too big a stretch to consider it the only version, in which case, pushing customers from Vista to 10 isn’t really a version upgrade, it’s just an update, no different from any of the service pack updates Microsoft has pushed out in the past.

So, am I paranoid?

Microsoft Is the Future

Before I get to the meat of today’s post, I want to close out Tuesday’s post. I got a very pleasant e-mail from Jaxon in response to my dissing of his latest article on the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch.

Unsurprisingly, he disagreed with my view that the article places too much of the blame for the fiasco on the design committee and their choice. This is still a more or less free country, and he is, of course, entitled to his opinion, however wrong it may be. I didn’t expect that he’d read my blog post and immediately see the error of his ways. But perhaps he’ll come around in the future.

And there will be opportunities for Jaxon to see the light. He assured me that he’ll continue to cover “the flaws and foibles” of the Bay Bridge project. That’s good news. Despite my teasing and my disappointment with the latest article, his writing on the subject has been consistently good. Certainly better than that of certain other Chronicle reporters; if you doubt that, take a look back to June, 2013. Jaxon’s article names names and doesn’t cut Caltrans any slack, while his colleague’s piece a few days later swallows Caltrans’ claims of collective responsibility whole, and regurgitates them, entirely undigested.

Moving on.


There were a number of interesting announcements out of Microsoft earlier this week related to the impending arrival of Windows 10. I found two of them particularly fascinating.

First, there’s the announcement that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for anyone running Windows 7 or Windows 8, as long as they do the upgrade in the first year after Windows 10 is released. What really makes that interesting is that the free upgrade is not available to anyone running XP.

As ArsTechnica notes, XP still accounts for almost 15% of the worldwide OS marketshare–nearly twice as much as all versions of Macintosh OS X–despite the fact that it’s completely unsupported. Apparently, Microsoft is giving up trying to convince XP users that it’s time to move on and upgrade to a supported OS.

And that one year window has some interesting implications for users of Windows 7, which moved from “mainstream support” to “extended support” earlier this month and will become unsupported in January of 2020. Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date for Windows 10, but it’s almost certainly going to be sooner than four years from now. Why would Microsoft eliminate its biggest incentive to upgrade? Do they really want a years-long period of Windows 7 getting increasingly creaky but nobody moving on? Didn’t they learn anything from the effort to get people off of XP before the end of extended support?

We could be optimistic, I suppose. Microsoft has taken the important step of offering a free upgrade. Maybe as Win7’s end of life approaches, they’ll take the next step and try paying people to upgrade. Imagine: “Download your Windows 10 (2019 edition) upgrade here and we’ll send you a $50 Visa Debit Card, good at any retailer that still has a bricks-and-mortar outlet.” It’s worth a try, guys.


The other interesting announcement is, as you’ve probably already guessed, Microsoft’s HoloLens.

It seemed a little odd how much excitement HoloLens is generating, given the recent crowing we’ve seen in the press about the death of Google Glass*. On further thought, though, I think the buzz has a lot to do with the difference in HoloLens’ focus.

* For the record, Glass isn’t dead. The current hardware may not be available, but Google hasn’t given up on the idea. There’s still a Glass team, and even if the classic spectacle-mounted display doesn’t make a comeback, ideas and techniques from Glass will find their way into other Google products.

Glass was and is primarily about sharing your life–remember the live skydiving video at Google I/O 2012?–rather than enhancing it. The provision of contextual information is a secondary goal, and Google took great pains to keep it unobtrusive.

At the other extreme, you’ve got Oculus Rift and other virtual reality systems working toward a fully-immersive experience.

HoloLens sits in between the extremes, aiming to provide contextual enhancement to your environment without replacing the entire world around you.

By focusing on providing useful information without burying you in it, Microsoft may just find the sweet spot of user interest. The demos being run for reporters suggest they haven’t yet decided exactly where on the spectrum that sweet spot lies–the Mars demo, for instance, is nearly as extensive as an Oculus Rift-style virtual reality–but the current state of the hardware makes it clear that they still have time to refine their target.

Microsoft says HoloLens will be available “in the same timeframe as Windows 10.” It’s clear that the HoloLens hardware is not as close to release as Win10, so don’t expect to get a HoloLens system the same day you download your free OS upgrade. I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if HoloLens doesn’t hit the shelves until after the free upgrade offer runs out–but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the hardware came with a bundled copy of Win10. That might be just enough incentive to convince a few laggard Win7–or even XP–users that the time catch up with the rest of the world has arrived.