Author Archives: Michael Lasky
Whether you are looking for directions to a destination or traffic condition updates or other travel information, the drill up to now has been to go to the usual suspects online — Google Maps, Bing Maps or Mapquest. But you can save a step in Windows 10 since it sports a just-as-resourceful Map app a click away in the Start menu? Powered by Bing and using the powerful HERE Technologies navigation (formally NAVTEQ and Nokia), Windows Maps works equally well on PCs and tablets. It not only gets you from one place to another, it adds a carload of relevant information (restaurants, hotels, gas stations) related to your destination and points along the way. To make your journey in Windows 10 Maps easier and quicker, here’s a road map to finding your way around its bountiful features from its intuitive iconography to its downloadable offline maps. Buttons Help Find Your Way Around the Map Maps works best when you are connected online, logged in to your Microsoft account, and optionally giving permission to location services. ( If you think letting Microsoft know your location is too intrusive, turn off Location services in Settings+Privacy.). With the location service turned on, the … Read More
The best thing about Windows 10 is also the worst thing about Windows 10. The operating system is stuffed to overflowing with built-in features and apps, so many that the sheer volume can and does overwhelm most users, so many that most users will never find or use them. What a waste! But as I discovered, they don’t have to go to waste. Instead of letting the bountiful Windows 10 Starter apps go unused, I decided to see if they were robust enough to keep users like me self-sufficient without the need to use third-party programs. Could I forgo using Office apps or the other third-party apps I’ve come to rely on? Could we run our offices or personal tasks with just the Windows 10 Starter apps? So I took the self-imposed challenge for a one week trial. Read on to find out how it went. More Than Just Getting By with Windows Starter Apps Almost all the Starter apps in Windows 10 are easily found right on the Start menu, arranged in alphabetical order. A few others lay semi-hidden in sub-menus like Windows Accessories. Selecting the Starter apps I would use required first assessing the non-Starter apps I currently use — and … Read More
In this second in a series of articles I continue my in-depth examination of some of the features in Windows 10. Part one of this series appears in the March 27 issue. In a complex operating system like Windows 10, there are obviously features Microsoft got right and then some that still need tweaking. Now that we have lived with the various versions and updates of Microsoft’s OS, isn’t it time we conduct a sort of postmortem of all that Windows comprises? In this second installment of my feeature-by-feature overview, I examine what’s good and bad (or just plain ugly) about the Microsoft Store, the Command Prompt, and that mandatory, take-it-or-leave-it, Microsoft account for Windows 10. As in the previous installment, these assessments will be based on both my experience with the OS since its first release, plus composite of opinions from other users. The Microsoft Store When Microsoft first started their app store media pundits and consumers weighing in online were not too kind, rightfully calling it a “too little, too late” copycat of Apple’s tremendously successful App Store. In its first years the Microsoft Store displayed a puny selection of familiar games and productivity apps and seemed to be just begging to … Read More
For such a large and complex operating system like Windows 10, there are obviously features Microsoft got completely right and then some that … not so much. Now that we have lived with the various versions and updates of Microsoft’s latest OS, isn’t it time we conduct a postmortem of all that Windows 10 comprises? What do we like and what are our pet peeves? With a selective feature by feature check, I plan to look periodically under a virtual magnifying glass to examine what’s good and bad (or just plain ugly) about each feature. This will be based on both my experience with the OS since its first release and with a composite of opinions from other users (media and end users). To get underway with this continuing series, Feature-By-Feature, here’s are the first three guinea pigs under the glass: Automatic Updates, the Start menu and Contana. In later installments Windows Secrets will examine the good and bad of the Command prompt, Edge browser, One Drive, and the Microsoft Store. Automatic Updates This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Out of the legion of free, shareware, and commercial utility software I have installed over the years on various versions of Windows, there are a mere handful of ultimately indispensable programs that I use almost daily. I’m going to share the five free utilities which I would pay for if I had to. These perform what Windows built-in apps cannot do: handle screenshots perfectly; play any format of video and audio; completely uninstall apps with no orphan code; create boilerplate phrases and macros for one button execution; and guard against ransomware infections. All are free and some come with optional, more robust paid versions. Here’s why they’re so great. PhraseExpress Eliminates Repetitive Typing I have been using Bartel Media’s PhraseExpress since version 3. As of 2016 it is up to version 12. And just like anything Microsoft, with each iteration more and more features – too many to count and maybe use – get added in. The main purpose of PhraseExpess is to create boilerplate templates, text snippets and canned responses, all activated with simple one-to-three key combos. One of the problems I had with the simpler early versions was the need to have to memorize all the key combos … Read More
Hackers know your tricks (or lack of them) when you merely tweak an easily guessable password. Changing a character or two in your password doesn’t make it any more secure. As the annual list of the worst passwords, as compiled by security and password management company, SplashData, reveals, most of us are either too lazy or collectively uncreative when it comes to making truly secure passwords. Computer users have only themselves to blame when they get hacked. “Our hope is that our Worst Passwords of the Year list will cause people to take steps to protect themselves online,” said SplashData CEO Morgan Slain. “These past two years have been particularly devastating for data security, with a number of well publicized hacks, attacks, ransoms, and even extortion attempts. Millions of records have been stolen. Even with the risks well known, many millions of people continue to use weak, easily-guessable passwords to protect their online information,” Slain notes. Here are the top 25 most-hacked passwords, by rank, password and whether or not their position on the chart has changed from 2016. You’ll note that numbers one and two are still reigning champs. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already … Read More
Thanks to the rise of streaming music, hi-res speakers are now less a luxury than a necessity. This month, I look at two headphones and two speaker sets that offer the dynamic range of sound music playback requires, whether you are by the PC, the TV or on the run. And thanks to Bluetooth, these devices to operate anywhere without the innate distance restrictions set by wires or cables. Logitech MX Sound Bring Premium Sound to PCs – and TVs With its high-end drivers and rear-facing port tubes, the 24-watt MX Sound speakers pump out well-balanced music with the right amount of bass, treble and mid-range sound. The black fabric, silver accented, cone-shaped pair of speakers add a dramatic design flair, and that’s what is particularly appealing about these speakers – they work equally well with my PC and TV thanks to their versatile Bluetooth or wired connections. With Bluetooth 4.1,I was able to connect to external devices like my iPhone, a.k.a. my music vault. But I could simultaneously connect via the supplied cables to my PC to watch and listen video and music streams. Thanks to Logitech’s Easy-Switch technology, it was a snap to seamlessly switch from wired to … Read More
This month, there are three twisty new products that just might jump-start your workflow. We’ll start with a keyboard that’s got a twist: It lets you concentrate on creating documents and illustrations without having to stop in your tracks to remember how to call up frequently used functions in different applications. Next, a twist on Internet security: a tiny desktop box that lets you see and control who is using your network and on what devices. And finally, a power play: a portable power outlet to charge mobile devices and even your laptop. Logitech Keyboard Lets Us Dial in Frequently Used App Functions This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
It used to be the only data we saved on our desktop computers were Office documents and an occasional photo. Now, thanks to the rise of smartphone photos – easy to take, tough to store on a machine with only 32 GB of memory — PC hard drives have become by default overstuffed repositories for all our digital detritus. Coming to the rescue: versatile storage drives which can add up to six terabytes for an all-you-can-eat media dump, may include multiple ports and even offer the DVD read/write drive most PCs no longer include. We check out a trio of these drives. NewerTech MiniStack Max Offers Four-in-One Solution When I purchased my light, thin Windows 10 Pro laptop, I knew its smaller size meant giving up the DVD read/write drive my previous doorstop-cum-notebook included. I knew that USB peripherals were the assumed replacements most PC manufacturers were relying on. I knew I could easily get an external, USB DVD drive if I really wanted one. But I am glad I waited. NewerTech’s MiniStack Max supplies not only my coveted DVD (and Blu-ray) drive but also: a 7200RPM hard drive, an SD card port, three USB ports, and a couple of … Read More