Windows 10 – Three months in, how is it going?

First of all I’d like to particularly welcome those of you who were at the Hadley seminar on Windows 10 today and like to thank Larry Muffett for setting it up for us: http://www.hadley.edu/PastSeminars.asp I’ve endeavoured to include links to further information on most of what was discussed, and also for everyone, a bit of an update and a look back on where Windows 10 is currently at.

So, for a bit of background, Microsoft created the Windows Insider program late 2014 as a way of giving those with an interest access to early “beta” versions of what would become Windows 10. Unlike previous beta programs, Microsoft have continued the Windows Insider program and you can still join it here: https://insider.windows.com/. The reason for this is that unlike previous versions of Windows, Microsoft are going to keep improving and updating the features and user interface as part of their regular updates, as well as continuing to provide patches for bugs and security fixes. With previous versions of Windows, they didn’t tend to update or add many new features over the life of a particular version.

This introduces the potential, as I’ve discussed before, for things to stop working at any time: https://22point.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/upgrading-to-windows-10-could-mean-things-stop-working-at-anytime/ particularly with screen readers, and the flip side of that, it means that future upgrades should be much smoother, as when you buy a new machine, the new one should look the same as the old one, so no learning curve: https://22point.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/upgrading-to-windows-10-future-upgrade-branch-options/ Just yesterday, I received an insider build update (10576) which actually added some accessibility in the form of colouring in the title bar of Windows and adding a coloured border and so making it easier to see:

Windows 10 original white title bar

Windows 10 original white title bar

Windows 10 blue title bar

Windows 10 blue title bar

If you are worried about things changing suddenly, then you might prefer Windows 10 Professional which lets you set your updates to “current branch for business” which basically means when Microsoft come up with a new feature (for instance the coloured title bar), they test it in house, then send it out to the insiders, then after that to “Home” version users and finally a few months later to Windows Professional “Current branch for business” users. Here’s a rundown of the different Windows 10 versions: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-win_upgrade/whats-the-difference-between-windows-10-home-and/55338b22-d042-45cb-b9c9-a1be21b534e1 If you want to buy a new version of Windows 10 or upgrade from home to pro, here are the official pricing details: http://www.techradar.com/au/news/software/operating-systems/windows-10-release-date-price-news-and-features-1029245

So, how is Windows 10 doing? Well an article out this week suggests that adoption has been slow, largely due to people liking Windows 7 and not wanting to change: http://www.i-programmer.info/news/177/9133.html

You don’t actually have to upgrade. If you are happy with Windows 7 or 8 then they will still be supported, Windows 7 until 2020 and Windows 8 until 2023: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-au/windows/lifecycle Please at least tell me you aren’t still using Windows XP whose support has already ended and therefore you are at risk if you are running it.

Why should you upgrade? Well the return of the start menu, which has live tiles may be one – aimed at being “the best of both worlds” the start menu acts similarly to in Windows 7 but with live tiles similar to Windows 8 – so instead of just having a link to open the weather for instance, the live tile actually tells you what the current temperature is, and the news tile gives you current headlines right in your start menu.

Cortana is another new feature which, like Siri on the iPhone and OK Google on Android, lets you give voice commands to open programs, get information or dictate text into an e-mail or document. Here is a more in depth look at Cortana: https://techranker.net/cortana-commands-list-microsoft-voice-commands-video/

All the major AT vendors have announced support for Windows 10:
NVDA (2015.3 or later, though recommending users not upgrade yet): http://www.nvaccess.org/post/nvda-2015-3-released/
Glassbrick (no statement on Windows 10 but I haven’t had any problems): http://www.glassbrick.org/
Zoomtext (10.1): http://www.zoomtext.com/product-news/windows-10-status/
Window Eyes (9.2): http://www.gwmicro.com/window-eyes/latest_features/
Dolphin (Guide v9.04, Publisher v3.51, EasyConverter v6.03, EasyReader v6.04, SuperNova 15): http://www.yourdolphin.com/newsitem.asp?pg=1&id=768
Jaws (16.0.4350) and Magic (13.0.1119): http://www.freedomscientific.com/Support/TechnicalSupport/Windows10Upgrade
Serotek: http://www.serotek.com/blog_our_position_on_windows_10

So why else might you want to delay or not update? Privacy is the biggest general issue raised: A good article on some of the privacy concerns and how to overcome them is: https://fix10.isleaked.com/

Accessibility is another issue. While most features of Windows 10 work with most AT programs as above, Microsoft Edge, the new browser is one new feature which doesn’t work well with AT. The Windows Store and universal apps are another. The store you can just ignore if you wish, but to avoid Edge you will want to set Internet Explorer (which is included in Windows 10) or another browser as your default. To do that:

1. Press WINDOWS
2. Press UP ARROW until you get to “Settings” and press ENTER
3. Press TAB twice to move to “System” and press ENTER
4. Press DOWN ARROW until you get to “Default apps” and press ENTER.
5. Press TAB until you get to “Web Browser, Microsoft Edge” and press ENTER
6. Press TAB to move through the list of installed web browsers and press ENTER when you get to the one you want.
7. Press ALT+F4 to close settings.

If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10, here are some links to help:
http://bgr.com/2015/10/26/stop-windows-10-upgrade-messages/ and http://winsupersite.com/windows-10/prevent-windows-10-upgrade-installing-after-making-your-reservation and http://www.zdnet.com/article/your-pc-stuck-in-windows-10-reschedule-or-upgrade-now-limbo-heres-a-fix/ (This last looks like a nice easy option though I haven’t tried this app so can’t comment on accessibility).

If you do upgrade and then later want to reinstall Windows 10, you might like to download the files so you can create your own Windows 10 CD:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

Finally, should you upgrade? Very good question. If you do, you should find most features work with most AT, though you may need to ensure for instance you use Internet Explorer rather than Edge. There are still some bugs and instabilities, so if you are happy with your existing version of Windows, and can get around the nags and prompts to upgrade, then you are still fine to stay with that. You have until July 2016 to decide to take advantage of the free upgrade offer.

And lastly, particularly for those who have just found your way here (and welcome again!) some other links to my own products / pages etc:

22Point:
http://www.22point.com.au/
E-Mail:
help ~at~ 22point.com.au
My book, Making Windows 10 Easy to See:
http://www.22point.com.au/publications.html
My large mouse pointers:
http://www.22point.com.au/cursors.html
My Blog:
https://22point.wordpress.com/
Particularly Windows 10 section:
https://22point.wordpress.com/#Windows
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/22Point
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/22pointapps

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Windows 10 – 15 days in. Also big book announcement!

Windows 10 – 15 days in. Also big book announcement!

Windows 10 was released on 29th July, just over two weeks in, how is it going? Should you upgrade yet? and what should you look out for?

All good questions! Microsoft is keen for everyone to upgrade – they’ve set the target of having Windows 10 on a billion devices by 2017: http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/24/technology/windows-microsoft-sales/

The upgrade process, when it works well, is very smooth. I’ve documented the process and steps in my book (more below!) but you can download the chapter on upgrading for free here: http://www.22point.com.au/publications.html

The main problem I had on my computer was most of the way through installation when it asked for my Microsoft ID (that you use for Skype, OneDrive, Xbox or other Microsoft services), I realised I’d forgotten it! I reset it on my phone though and you can create one at that point if needed. Other than that, it went fairly painlessly. On my wife’s laptop, her files, settings and programs transferred beautifully, but her mouse driver and speaker driver didn’t work meaning neither of those devices worked until we uninstalled the old drivers and Windows reverted to generic drivers which seem to work fine. For every person who has had trouble with the upgrade (some much worse than my wife’s), there are others who had a hassle free journey. If you use a branded computer (HP, Acer, etc), I’d recommend looking up the model and see what the manufacturer advises before upgrading.

You can either use the “Get Windows 10” item in your system tray (which should also flag any programs or hardware which might cause problems) or you can download ISO images from Microsoft directly: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10 Note if you use the image you still need to “upgrade” in order to transfer your license across. You can choose to keep “nothing” during the install, which is one way of starting fresh and getting rid of any extra software bundled with your computer: http://www.howtogeek.com/216751/bloatware-banished-windows-10-eliminates-the-need-to-ever-reinstall-windows-on-new-pcs/

So, SHOULD you upgrade? The main points I would make are:

* Windows 10 is fairly stable – I haven’t had any crashes at all lately. I find Chrome freezes for a few seconds occasionally opening a new window, and on my wife’s laptop Outlook regularly freezes, sometimes for minutes on end.
* There are still glitches and features which don’t work completely (keyboard navigation through the Action Center, and Edge browser not recognising most screen reader navigation quick keys being several examples).
* Coming from Windows 7, the desktop and system tray are similar to what you’re used to. The Start menu is a little different and we’ll look at that shortly.
* Coming from Windows 8, the tiles in the start menu (you can go full screen) look familiar, and you can still type into the search box when you bring up the start menu.
* Not every program (or piece of hardware) works with Windows 10 yet, so check with your manufacturer on anything you need access to. Most AT vendors have announced either current or upcoming support for Windows 10:

Jaws 16 and Magic 13 both Windows 10 ready: http://www.freedomscientific.com/About/News/Article/141

Window Eyes 9.2 Works with Windows 10, Zoomtext not yet Windows 10 ready:
http://www.aisquared.com/support/more/windows_10_status

Supernova (beta), Guide, EasyConverter, EasyReader and Dolphin Publisher all Windows 10 ready:
http://www.yourdolphin.com/newsitem.asp?id=776

NVAccess recommending waiting until NVDA 2015.3 (due in late August):
http://www.nvaccess.org/win10/

Glassbrick don’t have anything on their website, it seems to work ok. On my machine I had to run in compatibility mode with display scaling disabled otherwise I couldn’t see the bottom of the screen (possibly a resolution issue rather than Windows 10 specifically?):
http://www.glassbrick.org/

Serotek have a similar position to NVAccess – System Access works with some aspects of Windows 10 however they recommend holding off upgrading both until their next version and until Microsoft iron out some of the early bugs in Windows 10:
http://www.serotek.com/blog_our_position_on_windows_10

And finally our own extra large mouse pointers work well in Windows 10: http://www.22point.com.au/cursors.html

demo_cursor

If you use adaptive technology, such as Jaws or Window Eyes, when you start the upgrade, it will speak through the first part. Once the computer has rebooted during the install, you will need to use Narrator to guide you through the rest of the install by pressing WINDOWS+U (and then need to reinstall your AT after the upgrade). How long you have to wait to start Narrator is tricky to guess – I have heard reports anyrwhere from 20 mins to 3 hours. Our computers here (1 – 5 years old), took 1 – 1 ½ hours. I would start it going, then come back and check whether WINDOWS+U does anything every 20 minutes or so.

One of the most eagerly anticipated features of Windows 10 is the Start menu.

start menu

The left side will look familiar to those used to Windows 7. Your username up the top gives option to change account settings, lock, sign out or change user. Below that are some of your most used and newest apps and under that a handful of system items including “File Explorer”, “Settings”, “Power” (where you shut down, sleep or restart) and “all apps” (changes that whole side of the start menu to an alphabetical list of every app you have installed). Windows favours the term “App” over “Program” but essentially they are interchangeable for many purposes.

The right side contains a grid of Windows 8 style tiles. When you pin something to the start menu, this is where it ends up (I’ve seen several sites mention pinning things to the left side of the start menu, however I haven’t been able to get these to work on any of our machines:
http://www.howtogeek.com/197836/8-ways-to-customize-the-windows-10-start-menu/). As well as simply launching apps, some of the tile are “Live” eg the weather and news, which display the temperature and the top news stories respectively.

When you press the Windows key or click the Start button, focus moves to the search bar where you can start typing an app or file name, a setting or any phrase to search the web for. This is consistent with previous versions but with extra functionality.

cortana

Cortana will likely also be of interest to many people – essentially you can dictate commands or information and it works very similarly to Siri on iOS or Google Now on Android. I’ve found the recognition is ok, particularly for launching apps for instance – it made a few more mistakes when I dictated text to type in an email but I could do it (much like using Siri for the same task). Here’s a more in depth look at what you can do with Cortana: https://techranker.net/cortana-commands-list-microsoft-voice-commands-video/

So what’s bad about the new Windows 10? Here’s a roundup of some of the main issues:

– Security: Some settings which are on by default include connecting to open Wi-Fi networks, letting any of your facebook friends automatically connect to your network without needing a password if they happen to drop by and search sending everything you type into the search box straight back to Microsoft. One handy guides on security settings (and tightening them up) is: https://fix10.isleaked.com/

Default apps are lost when you update. You can set them up again by going into search (hit the Windows key) and typing “default apps” and there you can set the default apps for various things.

Updates: One of the most contentious topics with Windows 10 is updates. If you have the home version, you get every update that comes out – both security patches (good!) and feature updates (could be good or bad). Several ways around this are: Buy the professional version and set it to receive updates on the “Professional branch for business” – you still get feature updates, but a few months down the track hopefully when any issues are fixed. Some users have also found themselves in an endless cycle of reboots after installing corrupt driver updates. If that’s you, this may be the relevant page to read: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-update/cumulative-update-for-windows-10-for-x64-based/7df7a262-42e6-4377-adf8-04a3beaed7b6?auth=1

Overall I like the new version, but I still recommend most users hold off for another couple of months to give the various boffins time to iron out the early bugs and get everything running smoothly for everyone, but if you do decide to upgrade, and once you get through the install, you should find most things work fairly well.

Finally my big announcement! “Making Windows 10 Easy to See” is now available!

[cover art for Making Windows 10 Easy to See]

[cover art for Making Windows 10 Easy to See]

Designed for users of laptops, desktop PCs and tablets. It’s the first book designed to help you not only get the most out of Windows 10, but also to help you set it up so you don’t need to squint.
Topics include:
– Turning on for the first time,
– Using larger fonts and magnifier,
– Getting around Windows,
– Common apps and tasks,
– All in easy to understand language.
Plus join the Making Windows Easy online community free!

Available directly from 22 Point at a special introductory price: http://www.22point.com.au/publications.html

Have you upgraded yet? How have you found the experience?

Windows 10 – two weeks out!

Ok, here is your fifteen day heads up about Windows 10! That’s right, the operating system that is quite likely to be as ubiquitous in a couple of years as Windows 7 still is today is barely a fortnight from it’s prime time debut.

So, is it ready for the spotlight? And should you leap onto the bandwagon and download it on day 1?

Well I’ve had some great chats with people this week about Windows 10 – you can hear my dulcet tones chatting with Byron Lee on the 7th July edition of The Talk Zone (and do check out the rest of Byron’s site and his other shows as well), and also the team at Cool Blind Tech I don’t think that one’s up yet – but you can subscribe to their podcast and they have heaps of good info as well on all things blindness, techy and cool. Coming back to the questions though my answers to those questions would have to be “It’s getting there” and “wait a couple months”.

Overall, I think it’s going to be a great operating system. I think for most Windows 7 or 8 users, you should be able to get up and running with certainly less learning curve than was involved in moving from Windows 7 to 8, and there are some nifty goodies to explore which extend the functionality that you are familiar with from your current version of Windows. HOWEVER, there are still bugs, and these are unlikely to all be fixed by July 29.

Here are just a couple of issues I’ve noticed (as a low vision user and just as a user) in the last two days, as I updated to the latest build:

1) I used my computer on Sunday night, shut down as normal, started up on Monday and started working away, and a few minutes in, the computer suddenly shut down, giving me a screen saying it was rebooting, and it proceeded to install the latest build (going from 10162 to 10166). The feedback I have got from someone who apparently works at Microsoft (not sure which area, but from one of the Windows 10 groups on Facebook) is that it shouldn’t do that and to submit that as feedback. I have done that, and I certainly hope that won’t be the behaviour of the final version, as randomly rebooting while you are working is very much not polite!

It does bring up a positive point, which I believe will be included in the final version as well. There is a feedback utility built into Windows, which lets you browse sections (Hardware, Microsoft Edge, Personalization and ease of access etc) see the feedback, issues and suggestions others have reported and also report issues yourself.

[Image of Windows 10 feedback app]

[Image of Windows 10 feedback app]

2) The other big issue I’ve found is that Jaws won’t work at all with this build (10166). For the last couple of builds, I’ve got messages before updating saying that I had to uninstall Jaws prior to it letting me upgrade as it wasn’t compatible – that’s a bit of a worry in itself as it meant that until I did that, I couldn’t get even security patches. In any case, I’ve installed it again after updating and it’s generally been ok. This time however I installed it and it just doesn’t start. When I look in the message centre I see a message saying it’s not compatible. Interestingly I do get (slightly different) constant messages saying that NVDA might not work, but so far it seems fine I have just ignored that message.

Interestingly, when you click on those messages it opens up a page on the relevant company’s website, about their update to Windows 10 compatibility:

[Image of Jaws incompatibility message]

[Image of Jaws incompatibility message]

[Image of NVDA incompatibility message]

[Image of NVDA incompatibility message]

Note in the two images above, the right hand quarter of the screen is what is called the Action Center. Down in the system tray is a little square speech balloon looking icon which is normally white edges and lines and clear inside. When there is a message which you haven’t read yet, it inverts to all white with black lines and you can either click on it or use the keyboard to bring it up and read your messages. As well as notifications about any issues or problems which need attention, it also contains buttons to let you jump straight to some of your settings, toggle a couple of settings and do things like take notes.

Windows 10 comes with One Note which used to ship as part of Office, but I’ve never touched it before. With Windows 10, one other new feature is that OneDrive – Microsoft’s cloud storage, is now built right into Windows and you can access it directly from Windows Explorer, I’ve got my documents setup there so for the most part they save automatically right into the cloud – I’ve had a couple of issues with that, particularly some things just don’t save there so I have several copies of some things in multiple places. Anyway One Note automatically uses One Drive so that could be a handy notetaking solution, particularly as there’s an Android app which utilises it as well (there are two actually – One Note is available for both Android and Android Wear- here’s the link to regular Android version of OneNote – there’s also a OneDrive app as well as all the other office apps if you haven’t checked them out already).

Where was I – yes problems I’ve found – well another one relates to that action centre – just this evening I’ve found that sometimes the action centre won’t come up no matter how much I scowl when I click on the little speech balloon – at the same time I discovered when that doesn’t work, the start menu ALSO doesn’t work. If you don’t think that’s an issue, I hope you aren’t a Microsoft developer!) – the first time it happened I restarted the computer to get it back, I’ve now found that some combination of ALT+TAB, going back to the desktop and pressing escape seems to fix it but it hasn’t happened often enough for me to be sure (it’s happened three times so far in an hour, though I’ve been on this build since yesterday morning and haven’t seen it previously so not sure why it’s started now).

Finally one issue I’ve found as a low vision user, is when I do certain things in Windows Explorer which cause it to bring up a “file open” style dialogue (eg choosing “Open with” on a file and choosing “Look for another app on this PC” to find something else to open it with), the open dialogue appears quite small – my guess is that appears at 100% DPI, even though I’ve set my display properties to use 175% DPI.

Other than that, NVDA seems to work pretty well, and Jaws was working ok in the last build I used it in (10159 I think). I hasten to stress again that these are bugs in the developer preview which are unlikely to still be present in the final build, at least for too long, so definitely don’t write Windows 10 off just yet. Overall where a lot of programs traditionally don’t work with newer versions of Windows than they were written for, I’ve installed numerous programs I had for Windows 7 and they work fine on Windows 10 – which is not to say that program you really love and use all the time that I didn’t try will work – as we saw with Jaws a few paragraphs ago, some programs at this stage definitely don’t currently work.

One other tweak I always use which does work though is modifying the mouse cursor, I’ve used my Windows mouse cursors which you can see in the screenshots above, and they work just as well as they have previously, so I’m happy about that as they’re much easier to see than the default cursor!

22 Point's large red Windows cursor

As for other AT products that I’ve found information on:

AI Squared have said:

When will ZoomText and Window-Eyes work with Windows 10?
As soon as possible after Windows 10 is released on July 29th. We’ve been testing ZoomText and Window-Eyes against the Microsoft developer releases for months and continue to pay attention to the folks in Redmond, Washington, USA. Our developers are happy with their progress thus far.

What Ai Squared products already support Windows 10?

ImageReader 1.x
ZoomText Keyboard

Dolphin have said:

We’re pleased to report that latest versions of Dolphin Guide, EasyConverter, EasyReader and Publisher are all “Windows 10 ready”.

Dolphin Guide v9.04
Dolphin Publisher v3.51
EasyConverter v6.03
EasyReader v6.04
So what about SuperNova?

Upgrade to SuperNova 15 for Windows 10 support

I can’t find an official statement from NV Access but as I say, it seems to work for the most part. I had a bit of trouble in a couple of places, notably getting around parts of the action centre, and the edge browser, I could access some things, but couldn’t use any of the usual internet shortcut keys with NVDA (H for headings, INSERT+F7 for links list etc). NVDA does work fine with Firefox though and that remains the recommended browser for NVDA users. Windows 10 does also include Internet Explorer which still works with NVDA.

So overall, I reiterate what I’ve said all along, there is a lot to like in Windows 10, however unless you are really keen on trying out the latest software – if you’re a user who just likes to turn on the computer, do what you need to do and turn it off again and forget about it for instance – then stick with Windows 7 for another few months while they iron things out. If you’re a tinkerer and use NVDA (or Dolphin products from the look of their announcement a couple of weeks ago), you might find some things not quite polished yet, but overall, you can get around most places. If you’re a Jaws user then DEFINITELY wait until Freedom Scientific bring out their new version as from the looks of things currently you could end up in a situation where your main screen reader doesn’t work at all. If you’re a Windows 8 user who hates it, has always hated it and wants Windows 7 back (and you’re not a Jaws user) then you might prefer to take your chances with the early bugs than continue with Windows 8.

If you are interested in learning more about the new features of Windows 10, definitely hit the follow button as I’m sure I’ll ramble more about it! Plus don’t forget to Subscribe to receive info from me on my upcoming book on Windows 10.

Are you looking forward to Windows 10 being released? Are you going to wait or grab it as soon as you can? Let everyone know in the comments!

Upgrading to Windows 10 could make future upgrades much smoother.

[Image of Windows logos]

[Image of Windows logos]

Last week we looked at one of the potential pitfalls for Windows 10 – that the new direction of Windows receiving feature upgrades in regular Windows updates where previously Windows only received security patches and bug fixes – leaves open the possibility of programs, and particularly accessibility programs, suddenly not working if a feature is introduced which isn’t compatible with those existing programs.

This week, I thought I’d flip things over and look at the other potential – that upgrading to Windows 10 could be the last “big” upgrade you need to do.

With any major software upgrade there is a learning curve. From Windows XP to 7, it arguably wasn’t too big – things had been redesigned and new features added, but overall if you were used to doing something a certain way, it was generally still similar. Windows 8 was much different from anything before so there was a big learning curve.  Also with any major upgrade, some programs won’t get upgraded and may never work on the new system, and others may need an upgrade of their own – with it’s own learning curve.

Windows 10 is coming back to something which looks and behaves more like a progression from Windows 7 – and looks like being a similar learning curve as say Windows XP to 7 was.

But what will happen after that? Well potentially things could be much easier – after all, if Microsoft decide to make changes to the interface, they will do so gradually, and introduce things one at a time – meaning that 3rd party program developers only need to cope with small changes at a time – not all of which will affect every program anyway. Similarly for users, if Microsoft move say the shut down feature to a whole new location (I wouldn’t be upset, where it is now in Windows 10, you have to open the start menu, choose Power which is the second option up, then Shut down which is the middle of three options), some people would find it straight away, others would need to ask someone, and others would give up and just press the power button on their computer (or leave the computer on overnight). If it was a feature which was really important and which lots of people just couldn’t find, then you would likely see articles about it in the newspaper, on the news, and all over social media as well, so the information about the change would filter through to most people. Even so, that’s one change. Over the next six months they might introduce new features which you don’t even notice, or which you do find and love instantly.

Microsoft learnt an important and expensive lesson with Windows 8 – that people don’t like large changes being thrust upon them when they were quite happy with how things were before. I would be surprised if they make that mistake again any time soon.

One of the big advantages of this new Windows 10 model, is not even something which will be appreciated straight away, but rather, as you use your computer, you’ll absorb the minor changes as they happen, and then a couple of years down the track, when it’s time to buy a new computer, you’ll go out and get one, take it home and turn it on… and it will look and behave exactly the same as the one you just upgraded from. – No more big learning curve! Plus, everything you had on your old computer last week, you can have on your brand new computer this week and it will continue to work exactly the same.

With those incremental changes, one point I raised last week, which will be attractive to some users, is that if you go for Windows 10 Professional ($199 USD to buy from scratch or $99 USD to upgrade from Windows 10 Home remembering that Windows 10 is a free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8, for the same ‘level’ – eg if you have Windows 7 Professional now, you will get Windows 10 Professional), you can put off those incremental upgrades, so if you are worried about program compatibility, you can use the “branch for business” which is touted as being even more stable, and which will give companies a few months extra to ensure their software works before you are upgraded with those new features.

Previously, Microsoft have made beta releases of new versions of Windows available to anyone who wanted to test it and ensure their software worked on it, before the final version was made public. Then once the new version is released, the beta program closes and everyone uses the final version. With Windows 10, one thing Microsoft are doing differently to ever before, is continuing the “Windows Insider” program so users who wish to, can continue using beta versions of Windows, which basically means that the implementation process for new features will be:

– Microsoft come up with a feature (or like feedback users have provided on a new feature to implement).

– Microsoft build the new feature and test it in house with their own engineers and testers.

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Windows Insiders”

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Home” users.

– Microsoft will roll the new feature out to “Current branch for business” (Professional and some Enterprise) uses.

Along the way, each new feature will presumably only roll out to the next level, once Microsoft are satisfied with the stability and functionality among the current group of users.  They collect crash reports of any problems as well as feedback submitted by each group of users, so for users on the Professional version, each feature will have been through quite a bit of testing and been exposed to many users to ensure it’s stability, and of course companies (and individuals) have the opportunity to participate in the Windows Insiders program in which case they will keep up to date with new developers and have time to react, before changes  are rolled out to home or professional users.

So potentially after upgrading to Windows 10, particularly the pro version, but even home, you may find yourself only needing to note down small changes here and there and you may find your machine runs better and more stable than ever before.

In all likelyhood, the reality will probably fall somewhere between last week’s post and this one – For the most part I think most things SHOULD trundle along fairly smoothly through Microsoft’s updates, but I can envisage, not often but now and then, an upgrade which completely breaks something for a third party program you use, and which may not be fixed in time (whether it’s up to Microsoft or the 3rd party developer). If you do have a piece of software you rely on, whether it’s a screen reader, or a graphics editor or anything else, I’d recommend following the developers on social media – that way you can keep up with news regardless, and if there is a problem, they’ll usually let their followers know as soon as they are aware and can give advice on what to do or what their time frame for a fix is likely to be.

In terms of the initial upgrade to Windows 10, for most users, I’d reiterate that I would recommend waiting a couple of months before doing it (in terms of the free upgrade, you’ve got a year, until July 29 2016 to take advantage of it).

How do you think it will play out? What do you intend to do re upgrading?  Share your thoughts below!

Upgrading to Windows 10 – future upgrade branch options

Following my article earlier today on Windows 10, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the best way forward for users and the costs and differences between the different options.

Basically there are three options for Windows 10 (looking at PC versions here for now):

Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.  There is also Windows 10 Education which is basically Enterprise but designed for educational institutions.

Pricing

Windows 10 pricing for home and small business is available now. To buy from scratch, Windows 10 home will be $119 USD
Windows 10 Pro will be $199 USD
and if you’ve already got Windows 10 home (or the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 home), to upgrade that to Windows 10 pro is $99 USD

I haven’t yet found any pricing information for Enterprise, presumably the idea is that if you are a business big enough and with systems which are mission critical enough to require Enterprise, then you negotiate a deal directly with Microsoft.

Features

There are plenty of articles about the features the new operating system will come with, I had a first look at Windows 10 a few weeks ago and will post a new update prior to the new Windows going live on 29 July.

Windows 10 Professional

As to features of the other versions, as well as everything you get in Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro also comes with:
– Domain Join Services
– BitLocker Drive Encryption
– Remote Access Services
– Group Policy editor
– Windows Update for Business

With most of those items, if you’re not sure what they are, you probably don’t need them.  Bitlocker drive encryption is one that might be of interest, essentially it’s an extra layer of security that means that even if someone were to get access to your hard drive, they wouldn’t be able to access the files without the encryption key.  It is arguable whether it is the most secure encryption method though it is likely the best option for most average users.

Enterprise

As well as everything you get in Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise comes with:

– Long Term Servicing Branch
– Device Guard – help protect against the ever-growing range of modern security threats targeted at devices, identities, applications and sensitive company information

Education

In turn, Windows 10 Education builds on Windows 10 Enterprise, and is designed to meet the needs of schools – staff, administrators, teachers and students. This edition will be available through academic Volume Licensing, and there will be paths for schools and students using Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro devices to upgrade to Windows 10 Education.

The ‘branches’

The Long Term Servicing Branch

The Long Term Servicing branch (only available to Windows 10 Enterprise customers) will continue to get latest and greatest security updates and enterprise grade support, but the feature updates that will be pushed to normal customers will not be provided during the support lifecycle of the OS. This branch is aimed at businesses who cannot compromise on stability and can do without the cutting edge features.

On Long Term Servicing branches, customers will have the flexibility to deliver security updates and fixes via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) which allows full control over the internal distribution of updates using existing management solutions such as System Center Configuration Manager or to receive these updates automatically via Windows Update.

The Current Branch for Business.

Businesses opting for the Current Branch on the other hand will be able to get the feature updates from the consumer versions but at a later date, once the features have been tested by Windows Insiders and guaranteed to not break compatibility.

By the time Current branch for Business machines are updated, the changes will have been validated by millions of Insiders, consumers and customers’ internal test processes for several months, allowing updates to be deployed with this increased assurance of validation.

System administrators will be have the flexibility to choose the updates that they would like to deploy in their operating environments, giving further control over the overall stability and compatibility of the Windows 10 installations.

This is great news as it reflects the fact that Microsoft is giving a lot of thought to Windows 10 as a Service and Windows 10 business Requirements.

Home branch

There isn’t a nice neat description by Microsoft for this, but reading from the Professional description above the feature upgrades will be sent out to home consumers along with the security and other updates, and once they’ve been found to be stable after a couple of months (possibly involving one or more patches along the way to fix issues found), then they will be sent out to Pro and Enterprise users on the current branch for business.

Windows insiders

There is one more branch which is designed for the technically minded who do love to be early adopters and don’t mind testing out features and finding bugs. The Windows Insider program allows users to get advance copies of “beta” versions of Windows features before they are sent out toe Windows home and then other users. This is not designed for use on your primary PC, but rather on a second or “testing” PC.
It’s free to join the Windows Insiders program

Enterprise pricing

Windows 10 Enterprise pricing seems hard to come by: Microsoft goes into a lot of detail about all the many benefits you get by being an Enterprise customer but not so much the price, although it does appear to be on a year by year basis and I expect would likely work out more expensive than other options for the average user.  Although you get the long term stability branch which would be attractive to some, I would HOPE that adaptive technology companies, (and others who make all the other third party software people use) would be able to keep up at least with the “current branch for business” update stream.

If you’re interested in Microsoft’s newest toy, for everyone who wants an 84″ Surface Pro hub, for all your enterprise employee collaboration needs, will set you back a cool $19,999.  If the price of a family car is a bit much for a tablet, then perhaps you will be tempted by the more modest 55″ model, for which you will only need to part with $6,999.

More to come in future entries, but with that extra information, which version of Windows 10 will you be aiming for?

Upgrading to Windows 10 could mean things stop working at anytime

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 logo

I’m excited about the upcoming release of Windows 10 – which is good, since I’m writing a book on Windows 10 (Please E-Mail me to subscribe to my E-Mail list to be in the know as soon as it’s released). I think the return of the start menu is a fantastic thing. I am looking forward to the voice activation features Cortana will bring (even if they’ll only be available to several countries at launch), and I’m ambitious about the possibilities of the new Windows Store making it safe again for people to download addon software without extra addons they didn’t ask for (see this warning about every major Windows freeware site and this warning about Sourceforge and this warning about ‘free’ Anti-virus software – in fact, while you’re on HowToGeek, and if you only read one article, make it this article about 12 common PC myths with references those others as well).

I do however, have one big reservation about Windows 10, which will resonate with anyone who has been through a major system update and uses adaptive technology (third party software which makes the PC accessible to those with various disabilities) – and indeed for anyone who relies heavily on any piece of third party software. Microsoft have announced that as part of the Windows 10 experience you won’t be able to delay updates in Windows 10 home edition. Windows 10 will come in a range of flavours, much like the versions before it, so if you are using Windows 7 or 8 home, you’ll get a free update to Windows 10 home. If you’re using Windows 7 or 8 Pro, then you’ll get the update to Windows 10 Pro. While traditionally, Windows updates have mostly been security patches and bug fixes, with the occasional Service Pack which might introduce some new functionality, Microsoft have generally held over on major system and interface updates for new releases of Windows.

Now however, Microsoft have announced that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows – meaning that instead of bringing in new features in a few years and repackaging the lot in a major update called say Windows 11, Microsoft will simply add these features as they are developed into your regular Windows updates. On the one hand this has the potential to be really handy – One day suddenly new options and settings will appear, Cortana will work in Australia, and other things will be changed and improved. But will that always be a good thing? Imagine if you were happily using Windows 7 and then one day got a Windows update you couldn’t defer and all of a sudden you lost the start menu and had the Windows 8 metro tile interface? With user interface and feature enhancements being brought into regular Windows updates, it is possible. Since in Windows 10 home edition, you won’t be able to defer updates, you won’t be able to do much about it if it does happen. With Windows 10 Professional, and Windows 10 Enterprise, users have the option of taking updates after a few months, only after they’ve been extensively tested on home users (see previous link) – which makes using Windows 10 home great if you like being an early adopter and trying out new things (you can also sign up to be a Windows insider and download early builds of Windows 10 now before they launch, and get new features in future even before they are pushed out to Windows 10 home users.

For home users, the idea of not having a choice about installing security updates is actually not so bad, as it will ensure that security updates are in fact up to date, and Windows 10 won’t be quite as in-your-face about updates as they have been on occasion in the past, but rather will download updates and install them as you reboot, as has been happening recently so many users won’t even notice except that the PC will take a bit longer to shut down on those occasions.

The problem comes in when features are added or how existing features work changes. While some 3rd party programs are very quick to respond to changes and ensure their programs continue to work, others are not always so fast, and it depends on the changes within Windows – some changes may require a 3rd party app to make only minor adjustments to continue working, or even none at all, but some may take a major rewrite – again consider the changes necessary for a screen reader to understand how the Windows metro tile interface worked in Windows 8, and then again to make all the changes necessary to support a new start menu (with some metro like tiles) in Windows 10. What this means is that screen reader company would need to have someone in the Windows Insider program, testing new features, and responding to those with program updates, hopefully before those features go live for home users, otherwise, those home users who rely on that screen reader, will not have access to at least that feature of Windows until their screen reader is able to work with it. maybe not such a big issue if the broken feature is in Microsoft Paint, but potentially crippling if the feature is the Start menu or system tray.

Probably the safest option for users relying heavily on third party software such as screen readers, could be to stump up the extra $100 to upgrade their Windows home license to a Pro license.

Potentially you could even upgrade to an Enterprise license which would allow you to still upgrade to Windows 10 but not receive incremental feature upgrades at all. Of course you can still stay with Windows 7 or 8.1 – Windows 7 will receive support up until 2020 – although the free upgrade offer is only valid for the first year so if you do stick with Windows 7 or 8 beyond July 29 2016, you’ll have to pay for the new version.

For most users, I’d recommend not necessarily upgrading on day 1, and potentially considering upgrading to Windows 10 pro. Because of the big incentive to upgrade by it being free, it will most likely be something that majority of PC users will find themselves using, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. What are you planning to do about upgrading? Are you going to be a day 1 adopter? or are you going to hold out and decide whether to upgrade in about May 2016?

EDIT: I’ve been asked a few questions and had some discussion about this post, so I’ve collated some further information into a supplementary post

Share your thoughts in the comments!

An initial, low vision look at the Windows 10 technical preview.

[Image of the Windows 10 logo][Image of the Windows 10 logo]

Windows 10 is scheduled for release around September this 2015, and as is usual, there is an early version, called a “Technical Preview” available for people to look at. It’s freely available to anyone, whether you are a software developer, IT teacher, technical writer or just a curious consumer. The main point to be aware of are that while it will have some of the new features coming in Windows 10, it is beta software, and things might not all work, so it’s not recommended to use it as your daily PC just yet.

I’ve had a quick first look at the technical preview, and while there are plenty of sites detailing some of the key features which are new or updated, I’ve included my thoughts here as a low vision user.

If you are interested in an audio podcast, sampling some of the new voices available and hearing me ramble on aimlessly about my first impressions of Windows 10, then Step this way for my Windows 10 first impressions podcast

Firstly, if you’re still using Windows 7, please jump over here for my quick primer on Windows 8 to get you up to speed.

Ok so lets get to Windows 10. Microsoft have announced that it will be a free upgrade for anyone running Windows 7 or 8, which indicates that its hardware requirements should be relatively low. In order to fully test this claim, my chosen Windows 10 test machine is a 2006 vintage HP Compaq dc7600 with an Intel Pentium 4 640 / 3.2 GHz, 80GB HDD and 1GB RAM. This machine never actually saw action with Windows 7 – it shipped with Windows XP and that’s what it had on it (in storage under the couch) until I bumped it up four releases of Windows at once this week – quite an amazing feat in itself – could you imaging taking a Windows 98 machine and slapping Windows 7 on it? I’ve run Windows 7 on similar vintage machines and I have to say that while it worked ok early on, by now Windows 7 actaully runs a lot slower than it did on release and so running Windows 7 on this vintage machine is no longer pleasant. In actual fact, running Windows 10 on this machine isn’t overly great either, but it is possible, which means that most machines people have at home which shipped with Windows 7 from the shop should actually run better than they have in years under Windows 10.

As someone who still uses Windows 7 for my daily driver, I found the initial presentation looked more or less familiar, which was a relief given that the interface is most hated aspect of Windwos 8. You first get to a welcome screen with the time and list of users, you pick your user profile, type your password and then you are presented with a big pretty picture desktop background, with icons, a taskbar with system tray and clock and a start button.

[Image of Windows 10 desktop with personalisation window open][Image of Windows 10 desktop with personalisation window open]

The Start button has the newer Windows logo in a monochrome white on dark blue by default, and next to it is a large search bar – not unlike the search box the focus moves to when you bring up the start menu in Windows 7 – and it works much the same, although being on the taskbar, you can get to it directly now without also opening the start menu:

As a low vision user, one of the first things I did was fire up the magnifier by pressing WINDOWS and +, and indeed, it looks and works exactly as it has since Windows 7, and the options are the same as well (including the strange omission of leaving “Follow the keyboard focus” and “Have magnifier follow the text insertion point” both unchecked. If anyone knows why they are unchecked by default or why you wouldn’t want them checked please do let me know as I’ve been curious since Windows 7 came out!

Going into personalisation (I right clicked on the desktop and chose the bottom option in the context menu, but you can get to it from the search box – no difference there), I noticed the first difference – there is no real border around Windows now. Microsoft have gone for a Modern, Metro, Material, Minimal, whatever you want to call it, design which is aimed at being simple, clean and refreshing. (There I think I’ve covered all the appropriate buzzwords!) In any case, while I like it well enough overall, I do find the lack of a border to define where windows end somewhat jarring, particularly as it means if you have windows overlapping each other, it can be very hard to tell where one ends and the next begins.

Next lets have a look at the most anticipated feature: The Start Menu

[Image of Windows 10 Start menu]
[Image of Windows 10 Start menu]

The nice big red mouse pointer there isn’t a new feature in Windows, it’s a custom mouse pointer I made in Windows 7, which I could copy just fine into Windows 10. The default stock of mouse pointers really hasn’t changed since Windows 7, nor has the mouse options, so a custom mouse pointer like this is a good idea. There are a range of full mouse pointer sets, including this red one, available from the 22 Point Website here.

The Start menu itself actually looks pretty traditional: text items with icons on the left, and on the right something which looks like the Windows 8 start screen.

I could move around the start menu with the keyboard without problem (although as in the screenshot above, the mouse hovering over an item will visually highlight it, though the keyboard focus may be elsewhere entirely.

In Windows 7 you had your programs on the left and your settings and abstract folders on the right (Documents, pictures, control panel etc). In Windows 10 you have some of each on both sides. I’m not sure how best to rearrange it, but the left side certainly appears fluid with it’s “Recently added” and “Most Used” sections as well as a “Places” section which currently has File Explorer, Documents and Settings under it.

In Windows 7 you could pin things you used frequently to the start menu, and while that option does seem to exist in Windows 10 (if you go to the All apps list at the bottom of the start menu, you get an alphabetical list of everything sorted by letter, and you can right click or press the CONTEXT menu key to find “Pin to start” as an option. You can also choose a file of any type from Windows explorer, but it doesn’t appear in the default context menu, you have to press SHIFT and right click or shift+context menu key before it appears), I did try pinning a couple of items to the start menu and they never appeared there, so I presume that’s a work in progress.

[Image of Windows 10 full screen Start menu]
[Image of Windows 10 full screen Start menu]

You can also expand the start menu to take up the full screen and look similar to the Windows 8 start screen, which mostly gives you more access to those “right side” tiles, including live tiles for things like current news and stock market fluctuations.

Turning on high contrast mode, either with LEFT ALT, LEFT SHIFT and PRINT SCREEN, or from the personalisation screen, the start menu seems to come up ok too:

[Image of Windows 10 Start menu in High Contrast with Windows magnifier]
[Image of Windows 10 Start menu in High Contrast with Windows magnifier]

I did find some things ended up unreadable, such as most of the settings windows:

[Image of one of the Windows 10 settings screens in High Contrast]
[Image of one of the Windows 10 settings screens in High Contrast]

The ALT+TAB window works similarly to how it ever has, although the preview is now a bit bigger and the regular contrast seems ok:

[Image of Windows 10 ALT+TAB screen]
[Image of Windows 10 ALT+TAB screen]

Unfortunately the semi-transparent background doesn’t work so well in high contrast mode:

[Image of Windows 10 ALT+TAB screen in High Contrast]
[Image of Windows 10 ALT+TAB screen in High Contrast]

WINDOWS+TAB has been a flashier but less well known alternative since Windows 7. I found it confusing in Windows 8 as it didn’t treat all windows the same (anything which didn’t run full screen was lumped into a “Desktop” category, and in Windows 10 I must confess I still don’t really get its purpose.

[Image of Windwos 10 WINDOWS+TAB screen]
[Image of Windwos 10 WINDOWS+TAB screen]

It now presents you with previews of all of your Windows in a grid on screen overlaid over the desktop, and you can arrow through them or click on the one you want – pressing it again toggles between this view and the last window which had focus. The main benefit I can see would be that you don’t need to hold down two keys continuously, which would definitely be useful for some, though I much prefer the ALT+TAB interface visually.

One thing which was an issue in Windows 7 was that you could choose one Windows colour which shaded your taskbar, ALT+TAB window and title bars, however the text in some (Title bar and ALT+TAB) was black whereas the text in the taskbar and Start Menu was white making it hard to choose a well contrasting colour. In Windows 10 this still seems to be the case, although the ALT+TAB menu now uses a straight dark background with white text, only leaving window title bars with black text, so overall a dark windows colour seems to work best.

Finally, the other big thing I came across was Cortana. Familiar to smart phone users, the ability to issue spoken commands to your PC will be integrated in Windows 10. At this stage it isn’t as fully integrated as the Microsoft promotions tell us it will be, but it does work. I must confess I skipped through teaching it my voice so it’s not as accurate as it would otherwise be if I hadn’t been lazy, but I could get it to open and close programs and dictate text.

[Image of Cortana window]
[Image of Cortana window]

One amusing incident was when I had a phone call while playing with it, even though I wandered over the other side of the room, it still picked up random snippets of the conversation and opened and closed things (I’m pretty sure we never actaully said “Num Lock off”, or “Open network locations”, but it helpfully did those for me anyway). The system has the option of either being manually turned on or off, or a constant listening mode where you can say “Stop listening” to put it to sleep and “Start listening” to get it to start listening again. One issue I did encounter, was when using a screen reader such as Narrator or NVDA, Cortana would listen to the output of the screen reader, and try and decipher it as commands. So unless that changes, if you want to use Cortana AND a screen reader, you’ll need to wear headphones. Cortana at this stage also didn’t give any verbal feedback of commands as say Siri or Google Now does. Otherwise I can certainly see it being a preferable method of input for some users.

Finally, another reminder either that Windows 10 is still not ready for full release, or alternatively that the best days of my wife’s old HP are behind it, I inadvertently left it running when I went out this morning, and came back to this error:

[Image of Windows 10 error]
[Image of Windows 10 error]

Microsoft unfortunately still haven’t figured out that white writing on blue isn’t the best contrast, and unfortunately their blue is getting lighter, but the important bit of the message reads “The operating system couldn’t be loaded because the kernel is missing or contains errors.” and going on to suggest either using a recovery CD or contacting my manufacturer. Luckily for me, I recently bought my wife a new laptop!

Have you tried the Technical Preview of Windows 10 yet? What did you think?

One page primer on Windows 8 for Windows 7 users before looking at Windows 10

I sat down this week to have a first look at Windows 10 and my intention today was to share my initial thoughts with you. Before doing that however, I realise that a lot of people (like me for the most part), heard the bad reviews of Windows 8, had a quick look and agreed, and have stuck with Windows 7. If that’s you, read on! If you’re an old hand at Windows 8, then jump straight on over to my first look at Windows 10.

Firstly, please at least tell me you’re not still using XP! It’s no longer supported and that means any vulnerabilities found – and there have been several in recent months – will not be patched so even if you keep your anti virus up to date, you are still at risk.

Before delving into my first look at Windows 10 I thought it prudent therefore to do a quick runthrough of some of the features from Windows 8.

win8desktop[Image of the Windows 8 start screen]

In case you’re wondering what happened to Windows 9 btw, Microsoft have jumped from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 – either because it’s such a revolutionary jump in the future of Windows (if you listen to Microsoft) or to try and distance themselves further from the very badly received Windows 8 (if you listen to some of the analysts).

From a low vision perspective, here are some of the things you might have missed in Windows 8 / 8.1 if you are still on Windows 7:

– Windows 8 ditched the start menu and introduced a start screen which was a patchwork of ’tiles’ to get you into programs. On the surface these appear larger than traditional desktop icons, however one thing which was very confusing was that when you moved the mouse to edges of the screen, things fly out at you that you either weren’t expecting, or invariably forget where to go for them without the traditional taskbar to “anchor” them to. Even more confusingly, when in a program, you were either in it full screen, or in a window with a desktop and task bar looking very reminiscent of Windows 7, but without the start menu. You could get the start menu back by downloading a 3rd party add-on from the Internet.

– The Windows Magnifier works in full screen in all themes, including the High Contrast themes. In Windows 7 it only worked full screen in “Aero” modes, meaning if you preferred the better contrast of classic or high contrast themes but also wanted a full screen magnifier, you needed to use a 3rd party program.

– Windows Narrator has been greatly enhanced. Instead of the half a dozen options and commands, there are now a half a dozen screens full of options including an extensive command list, meaning you can perform a lot more of the tasks that you would have otherwise used a fully fledged screen reader like NVDA or JAWS for previously. (Most users I know still preferred to stick with their chosen screen reader though).

– Your Microsoft ID is a lot more intrinsically linked with Windows now. Where previously you might have used it for Hotmail / Outlook mail, or Skype, now you also use it to log in to Windows and it then automatically logs you in to those other services.

So that’s your one page primer on Windows 8, let’s move on and have a look at Windows 10!