Category: Operating Systems

Your Chromebook can now work with your SMB-capable NAS

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WD MyCloud EX2 dual-disk NAS

These NAS units can now work with your Chromebook thanks to a Google SMB/CIFS file-system hook

Chromebooks can now seamlessly access Windows network file shares | PC World

Download link (Chrome OS)

My Comments

An issue you may find with the newer Chrome OS is that you could become stranded when it comes to gaining access to files. This may place limitations on your Chromebook’s utility value and you may find it serving as a glorified tablet.

Now you can download a Google-created app which serves primarily as a “hook” between Chrome OS and the SMB/CIFS network file exchange protocol implemented in just about all of the desktop operating systems for file sharing and in every network-attached storage device on the market.

This app takes advantage of an API made available for the Chrome OS platform that allows people to create software that links this platform with various file-storage systems and has been published as an open-source program, due to it being based on the Samba SMB/CIFS software used in every NAS. This could open up paths for creating various “hooks” for operating systems and computing platforms that make them work with these NAS units.

The article raised the issue of Dropbox and Microsoft writing native “hooks” for their cloud storage systems rather than users of these systems using flaky software to have their Chromebook work with Dropbox or OneDrive.

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You can still claim the Windows 10 free upgrade after July

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Making Sure You Are Eligible For The Windows 10 Free Upgrade Before It Expires | Supersite For Windows

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Windows 10 Free Upgrade screen

This is where you will reserve your copy of Windows 10

Microsoft is terminating the free Windows 10 upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users in July but you may be able to reserve that upgrade and “make hay while the sun shines”. This can be achieved by you clicking on the Windows 10 icon in the Notification tray and going through the processes as if to upgrade to effectively reserve that upgrade for your current hardware.

But if you want to stay with your current operating system, you would have to roll back the update so that you and your current computer are effectively registered with Microsoft as if you have taken advantage of the free upgrade. You can also supply the Windows Product Key for your existing operating system in order to reserve your copy of Windows 10.

Some of you who are in the market for a new Windows-based computer may want to skip this process and focus on benefiting from Windows 10 whenever you have your new computer. But if you are “spinning out” your older computer as, perhaps, a secondary computer existing on your home network while you are buying the newer unit it would be worth proceeding with the upgrade. On the other hand, you can download and apply Convenience Rollup Updates from Microsoft to effectively keep the older computer to a similar security standard as the newer equipment.

Similarly, you could download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft which allows you to create an optical disc or a USB stick as an installation / upgrade media source, then use this tool to deploy the Windows 10 update on to your computer. You could do this as part of registering your computer with Microsoft to reserve the free upgrade.

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Windows 10 Tiles not functioning? You may have to restart Explorer

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Windows 10 Start Menu

If you are seeing blank tiles in this view, you may have to restart Windows Explorer

Windows 10 Tip: Fixing Live Tile Counts and Blank Tiles | Supersite For Windows

My Comments

If you are running Windows 10 and are enamoured by the “tiled interface” that is part of its Start Menu or Tablet Mode view, there are times where you may find it not working “up to scratch”.

With this interface, you may find that the Live Tiles that are regularly updated simply go blank or are stagnant. The normal response to this situation would be to restart your computer, which would then fix the problem.

Task Manager with Windows Explorer called out

The Windows Explorer process in Task Manager

On the other hand, you may only need to restart the Explorer process to fix this problem without the need to reboot your computer. This can also apply to other user-interface abnormalities.

Here, you run Task Manager by either right-clicking the Taskbar or holding your finger on the Taskbar in the case of a tablet or 2-in-1, then clicking Task Manager, or pressing Ctrl-Shift-ESC together on the keyboard. Then you find Windows Explorer in the list of processes. Right-click this item and click Restart and it won’t take long for it to come good.

Task Manager - Context menu with Restart called out

Click the Restart option on the context menu to restart Windows Explorer

At this point, the Windows Explorer process will recover and update the tiles including reloading the data that populates the tiles from its source rather than working of corrupted data.

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iTunes and QuickTime not updating? What to do

Apple Software Update

If this fails to update iTunes or QuickTime, you may have to download these programs from Apple’s download site

You may find that when you update iTunes, QuickTime or other Apple software via the Apple Software Update app, the software may show error messages or simply hang/ This would then cause the ASU app to mark these updates as pending and the behaviour may continue to repeat itself.

But what can you do about this?

You can apply the QuickTime, iTunes and other updates by visiting the Apple downloads Website and downloading the respective software using the installers that exist on that site for your platform. This is similar to a new install rather than an update and can be used if you are dealing with a PC or Mac running older versions of iTunes or QuickTime. It can also be caused by corrupted configuration data that QuickTime and iTunes are working from.

Subsequently, the Apple Software Update app will behave properly, only needing to detect and install the necessary updates.  The update and install experience will be responsive and take a shorter amount of time to complete.

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Apple is starting to see reality with the iPad

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Apple is now seeing the reality with how the iPad is being used

Apple have released iOS 9.3 which has as part of its Education feature package the ability to allow multiple users to use the same iPad.

This is a feature that the iPad is sorely missing because of a common reality that I have noticed with this tablet where many household members are using the same device. It happens more so with the 10” standard iPad rather than the iPad Mini which is used more as a “personal” device. For example, I have seen one iPad being passed around four different household members in our household for email, video-content viewing, gaming as in Plants vs Zombies, and information lookup. Another iPad that I have seen in action is one that became the common Internet (or should I say at times Facebook) terminal in a “family house“. Similarly, businesses have used the iPad as a mobile computing device ranging from a communal image-viewing device through a POS terminal to a kiosk device.

It is in contrast to Steve Jobs vision for this device where he sees it as a personal companion device i.e. as a large-screen companion to the iPhone that each of us use. This is why Apple refused to integrate multiple-user support in to the iPad variants of the iOS platform. It is in contrast to how Google integrated multi-user functionality in to Android Honeycomb to benefit tablet users and Microsoft carried through the multi-user abilities of the Windows regular-computer operating system to tablets that ran that operating system.

iPad users had to be very scrupulous that they log out of email, Facebook and similar services if the tablet was being used as a communal device and they wanted to keep their data private and unadulterated. There wasn’t the ability to have a distinct operating environment for individual users like a different wallpaper or exclusive access to personal email and other accounts. Businesses would even have to run extra third-party apps to achieve a multi-user login setup which became very important through the lifespan of the tablet.

But Apple woke up by offering multi-user abilities for iOS 9.3, but only as part of an “Education” feature set which is an extension of Apple’s strong efforts for courting the education market since the Apple II era. This was because schools, especially primary schools (elementary schools in North America), would buy fewer iPads and pass them around a class, yet they want to be able to track progress through various courseware apps that are written for this platform.

When iOS users and the computer press heard about this, they thought that Apple would answer these needs “across the board” but at the moment, it is only being targeted to the education market. There is a hope being expressed that when Apple issues a subsequent major iOS update like iOS 10, they will provide proper multi-user support for this platform. But it may require a rewrite of the iOS operating system in order to make sure that the extra functionality doesn’t weigh the iPad’s performance down.

Some users may find that the login user interface may not cater to the multiple-user scenario but it may have to be about supporting a user list similar to the way Windows works and supporting different user PINs and fingerprints as login credentials. Similarly, Apple may have to realise that there can be multiple Apple IDs associated with the one iPad and factor that in with account management / password vault features and iTunes purchases. This could lead to the ability to provide Windows-8-style cross-device portability where apps, settings and libraries can be carried across multiple devices.

What may have to be looked at is to integrate a full multi-user ability in to the iOS distribution packaged for the iPads, perhaps implementing some of the techniques used in Windows or Android.

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The Nickname field is now of use for mobile assistant platforms

Article

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Android and iOS can support contacts’ nicknames with Google Now and Siri

Use Nicknames With Siri And Google Now To Reach Contacts Faster | Gizmodo

My Comments

Most smartphone operating systems have in their contact list a field called “Nickname”. This is typically of use when you have a personal nickname, relative-shortcut name like “Mum” or similar name for a contact. But in most cases, this field isn’t shown up on call logs or contact lists.

Now Siri and Google Now make use of the Nickname field to interpret instructions to call particular people. Google Now does provide inherent support for relationship-shortcut names but you can use the Nickname field for manually determining a contact’s nickname. Both voice assistants can query which person a nickname pertains to which can come in handy if you are calling one of many siblings or someone with an obscure nickname or a nickname that is spelt a certain way but pronounced another way.

How could this be improved upon?

Nicknames appearing in the contact-display context

At the moment, the nickname functionality only works in the contact-search context but I would like to see it also work in the contact-display context especailly when a call or text comes in from the contact or you browse through your contact list or recent / missed call logs. This could be facilitated through the use of a “Display As” field which shows a user-chosen field or combination of concatenated fields for a particular contact.

Support for a phonetic representation of a nickname

These systems could support the ability to store a phonetic representation of a nickname which can come in handy when you say that nickname one way but have it written another way. The phonetic representation would be used for voice-based search and voice-based call announcements.

Security issues with nicknames

Nicknames may expose security issues when they fall in to the wrong hands. It is because people use these nicknames as a “password” or “word of trust” within their community.  But confidence tricksters using familiar nicknames as a way to “get in to someone’s mind” and have them acquiesce to their inappropriate scheme. In some cases, a nickname that is a symbol of endearment may be used as a weapon against one or both of the participants.

Having nicknames as a “secure” field which is only shown to trusted users is important to preserve this kind of security. For example, if a phone shows a list of missed calls or text messages on the notification screen, it could show a standard “first-name last-name” or “company-name” while locked but show the nickname while unlocked. Similarly, voice-level biometrics can be used to authenticate a user who is “searching by nickname” using a voice-based personal assistant.

Further improvements needed for phone contact lists

Handling of common phone numbers

Another area where a lot of contact list programs miss out on is handling phone calls or other communication that comes in from pbone numbers, emails or other contact addresses common to two or more contacts.

The most common example is a landline phone number that serves as a “catch-all” number for a household, workgroup or business. In this case, you may instruct the voice assistant to call a person on that landline by saying “person-name Home” or “person-name Work” or something similar. This will place the call to that landline. The same thing will happen if you contact someone else who lives or works behind that common phone number.

The problem rears its ugly head when a call comes in from that phone number or you review your call logs and you see the first alphabetically-listed contact related to that “catch-all” number even though other contacts in your contact list are behind that number. Here you don’t know whom it was who called you or whom you placed that call to.

This could be facilitated using a dynamically-concatenated display field for phone numbers with something like [<company-name>(caller-name-1. caller-name-2, or caller-name-n] for callers with a populated company-name field; or [caller-name-1, caller-name-2 or caller-name-n] for callers missing a company-name field i.e. households. Or you may create a dedicated contact entry for the “catch-all” phone number such as a distinct “name-address-number” entry for a company or household. Then you add “common fields” like work number, home number or company name to the entries associated with the people with that same “roof” in common. The name associated with the dedicated contact entry shows up in the call log when you call that number or on your phone’s screen when they ring you from that “catch-all” telephone.

Conclusion

At least something is being done to make sure that the contact management software and voice-activated personal assistant software  is tied in to how we view our contacts so we see our contacts our way.

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Rotating videos shot with smartphones

When you shoot video using a smartphone or tablet held in the vertical (portrait) position, it will come out vertical and you may have to rotate your head to watch it comfortably on most display situations. Even if you use a camcorder or high-end digital camera to shoot your video footage, you may find that you have shot some footage at an awkward angle and may want to correct that.

But you can rotate the video footage so it appears right-way-up when you play it. Here, the video will come out in a “pillar-box” form when played full-screen with black borders on each side of the vision.

You can do this with both the main regular-computer operating systems using either an application that comes with the operating system or available as a free download from the vendor.

Apple Macintosh

Current versions of QuickTime Player for OS X have the ability to rotate the video and save a rotated copy.

To do this, open the video in QuickTime Player, then select “Rotate Video” under QuickTime Player’s Edit Menu to get it the “right way up”. Once you are satisfied, press Command-S on the keyboard to save a rotated copy of the clip.

Windows

If you download Windows Movie Maker, which is part of the free Windows Live Essentials package available from Microsoft, you can use this elementary video editor tool to rotate your video clips.

Here, you import your video clip to Windows Movie Maker, then you rotate your video clip using the Rotate buttons on the toolbar. Once you are satisfied, save a copy of the clip in any of the formats that Windows Movie Maker supports.

Conclusion

At least Apple and Windows offer inclusive solutions to correct your video footage that you take with your smartphone so you can make it comfortably watchable.

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System recovery images–how about updatimg them

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 connected to Wi-Fi hotspot at Bean Counter Cafe

The recovery image on these computers could be part of an update program to simplify refreshing them with the latest version of the operating system if they fail

Increasingly a lot of computer systems, especially laptops and tablets, are making use of so-called “recovery” images. This same practice also applies whenever an organisation is using a disk image with the operating system and applications that are the software component of a standard operating environment.

These are a disk image of all of the operating system and supplied applications that are delivered by the system manufacturer or value-added reseller and installed on the system when it is first set up. The computer makes use of these images if the computer has to be taken to “ground zero” due to a virus or corrupt data or before the user hands the computer to someone else. Newer operating systems use these images as part of a system refresh routine in order to remove corrupt data and bring stability to the computer’s configuration.

But what can happen is that as operating system and application developers keep refining their software, what exists on these system recovery images represents software that is way out of date. This reminds me of a support visit where Microsoft Word was continually crashing on a desktop computer and I had discovered that the computer was running an “out-of-the-box” version of Windows Vista which hadn’t had any service packs installed.

Typically, this will lead to reinstalling any and all patches and updates that were rolled out since the recovery image was created. But how can this be resolved?

One way would be for the manufacturer or value-added reseller to create a “recovery image service pack” and deliver that either as a USB stick or through an authenticated download to the computer users. Then the users install this service pack to replace the original recovery image to have an up-to-date reference image. This cond be created at regular intervals such as every six months.

Another way would be to create a dynamic system image that consists of the latest versions of the operating system and application files. The changed files can be added ot that image as part of installing the latest patches. Similarly, an “image update” app could check for newer hardware drivers for the hardware that is integrated with the computer system itself.

These issues may involve determining how installation and recovery disk images are built wiht a view to focus on the images referring ot major versions and editions of the software concerned along with any peripheral drivers. In the latter case, it may be about obtaining hardware-series-specific drivers rather than drivers that focus on that particular piece of hardware.

As well, with operating systems like Windows and OS X being offered with free major-version updates, the recovery image may also be about installing the latest major version of that operating system’s edition.

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Give your Windows 10 Mobile smartphone a unique name

Article

Nokia Lumia 950 press image courtesy of Microsoft

Nokia Lumia 950 – representative of Windows 10 Mobile – you can give it a distinct name

How to rename your Windows 10 Mobile handset | Windows Central

My Comments

Most desktop and mobile operating systems allow you to name your computing device so it is logically identifiable from others of the same platform.

This is important with identifying devices that are or to be connected on a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network or dealing with applications and games that only identify participants by device name. It is also about managing your devices’ access to cloud services including social networks

This was available on Windows Phone but was so well hidden that most Windows Phone users didn’t know it existed. It is because, unlike other operating systems, Windows Phone didn’t ask you to name your device as part of the setup process.

But there are two ways to go about this.

Using your Windows Phone’s control surface

To change:

  1. Tap Start then All Apps, then tap Settings
  2. Tap on System
  3. Tap About, which brings up details about your device
  4. Tap “Edit Name” which allows you to change your device’s name
  5. Enter your phone’s new name in Device Name field and tap Save

To verify

  1. Tap Start then All Apps then tap Settings
  2. Tap on System
  3. Tap About which brings up details about your device including its new name

Your Windows phone tethered to your Windows computer

Prerequisites: USB data transfer cable that suits your Windows Phone and regular Windows computer

This process is similar to giving removeable storage like a USB memory key, SD card or optical disk a volume name which identifies it.

To change

  1. Connect your Windows Phone to computer using a USB data transfer cable and let Windows detect the phone.
  2. Open File Explorer (Windows Explorer)
  3. Discover your phone under Devices and Drives. This is alongside your computer’s hard disk and other storage devices connected directly to your computer and your phone’s icon should be there.
  4. Right-click your phone’s icon and select Rename
  5. Rename as if you are renaming a USB memory key, then press Enter

To verify

Disconnect and reconnect the Windows phone to verify the change is applied and double check in File Explorer

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The Universal Windows platform gains momentum

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Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10’s Universal Windows platform now in place and allowing for an app to serve smartphones, tablets and regular computers

Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform might be gaining momentum | SuperSite For Windows

My Comments

With Windows 10 out in the field, Microsoft has been observing that the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform has been gathering steam.

What has been valued about the Universal Windows Platform is that a single codebase exists for applications destined for the Windows 10 Desktop operating system on regular computers and larger tablets; the Windows 10 Mobile operating system on smartphones, phablets and small tablets; along with the XBox One games console which would be used as a set-top box for online entertainment.

Candy Crush Saga gameplay on Windows 10

Candy Crush Saga – an example of what can be done here

Microsoft has worked on some software-development tools to simplify the process of porting apps from other mobile platforms to the Universal Windows Platform. One of these was the Project Astoria which simplified the process of porting Android apps but this was put aside while the Project Islandwood which facilitates the porting of iOS (iPhone and iPad) apps gained more traction.

This showed up initially with the ability for you to play Candy Crush Saga on your Windows 10 computer or Windows mobile phone. But now Uber, TuneIn Radio and other apps have shown up in the Windows Store. TuneIn Radio would have the same benefit across the board as a way to have Internet radio play on your regular computer like I have done a few times with Windows 8.

The article saw no use for the Uber ride-booking client on a regular computer. But I see Uber and other journey-booking apps that are pitched to smartphone users being relevant also to regular-computer users including those of us using desktop computers. This is because of the ability to book your ride using your Windows-based regular computer rather than finding your smartphone to do the job. User classes that would benefit are business users booking transport for people like lone workers or valued customers; hotel concierges and others in the accommodation industry; people who use 2-in-1 computers; or householders who use the main family computer to organise transport for members of their household or their houseguests.

As well, I would see the likes of Instagram and Pinterest benefit from this treatment because one could upload a photo taken with their good camera and post it there. They can also implement Instagram’s filters to “treat” the picture before having it available for all and sundry to see.

The Windows 10 Universal Windows platform can make the idea of apps being relevant across all computing devices without the need to write versions of the software to target particular device classes.

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