Q. I keep hearing about smart assistants eavesdropping on your conversations and reporting them back to big tech companies. So I’m nervous about using Cortana on my machine. Just how much privacy control do I have when it comes to Cortana? A. More than you used to. The recently released Fall Creators Update, aka Windows 10 Version 1709 recently bulked out the Windows Settings app with a new area for managing what Cortana knows about you and your activities. The new Activity History tab under your Microsoft Account gives you full control over all the data that is used with Windows Timeline including voice, search, browse, and location. The new addition to the Privacy Dashboard gives you granular control over all of this data with options to clear everything or remove all of it or individual items. Although there are no options on Windows 10 Home or Pro used on a standalone machine to opt out of providing at least a basic level of telemetry to Microsoft, you can opt out of using Cortana. Of course, there are consequences to making that choice according to Microsoft and it will limit Cortana’s ability to provide you with timely suggestions and other … Read More
Q. Are these new smart/secure routers the kind of thing I can give to friends and relatives for the holidays? I’m really tired of doing tech support. A. Let me begin the answer to this question by telling you about CES 2017, way back in January. As I was attending walking the show floor, one of the trends I noticed was home-based devices that are usually referred to as smart or secure routers. They’re supposed to help provide security not only for existing computing devices in the home, but also the growing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are becoming common place in the home. Many of IoT devices include connected home appliances and adapters, and while some of these devices have built in security, many do not. Enter the secure routers, developed to add a layer of security between those devices and the Internet. These new home routers and firewalls add that later of protection to IoT devices by learning the devices’ normal traffic patterns in and out of your home network so they can alert you if and when there’s a deviation from the pattern. You can then decide if there’s a security breach or not. … Read More
Q. I’m thinking about a smart speaker for my house? Does the Harman Kardon Invoke make sense if I have a Windows 10 machine? A. Well, let’s see how it fits into the overall smart speaker picture first. The Invoke is the first smart speaker to include Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant, and retails for about $200 at places like the Microsoft Store and Harman Kardon’s website. This speaker is an entry into the same market occupied by Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Amazon already has a significant lead in this area with a reported 70% of the market share and a library of over 20,000 skills for users’ benefit. In comparison, Cortana’s Skill Library lists approximately 220 skills. Not helping: many of them appear to be low quality and Microsoft is listing standard Cortana skills you can already access within Cortana on any device that you have the assistant installed. So if you’re thinking, “The Invoke can go toe-to-toe with Amazon’s Echo,” we’re not quite there yet. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Privacy has been one of the top issues for many users (and potential users) of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. Admittedly, the software company was very reluctant to go outside the box in those early days to address privacy concerns that accompany Windows 10’s uses of telemetry and the mandatory updates. In September 2015, Terry Myerson, the guy in charge of the entire Windows and Devices business within Microsoft, talked about privacy and Windows 10 but it did not go into great detail about what user data was collected; he mainly focused on how the data was used to maintain Windows 10. Nearly two years later, a few months prior to the release of the Creators Update, Myerson once again took to the official Windows Blog and shared about privacy and Windows 10. This time he gave details about a new Privacy Dashboard as part of your Microsoft Account. The dashboard gives you more control over your data that Microsoft has access to, from the operating system to assorted Microsoft products and services. Myerson also detailed changes that were made to put privacy choices front and center when you upgrade to the Creators Update, minimizing the amount of data Microsoft collects at its most basic option. … Read More
Q. When I store things on my hard drive, I feel secure — I can make sure that drive and the computer it’s associated with are disconnected from a network. But with things stored in the cloud — Windows Live Folders, Windows Live SkyDrive, SkyDrive, and OneDrive? Where’s the assurance that my files are secure? A. Before I answer that question, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Microsoft’s cloud based file sharing and syncing service, now known as OneDrive, is available to anyone with a Microsoft Account, and typically provides 5GB of cloud based storage. (The only exceptions:You have an Office 365 subscription or you have been grandfathered as storage allowances changed over the past few years.) I was recently asked just how secure are the files which users store in OneDrive and I can answer this questions from a couple of perspectives. First let’s talk about the physical security of your files on OneDrive. To answer this part let me quote something from Microsoft about access to their data centers where your OneDrive files reside in the cloud: “Microsoft’s datacenter personnel must pass a background check. All access to our datacenters is strictly regulated and every entry and … Read More
Q. I do family tech support – would Windows 10 S be a good OS option for my relatives? A. As advanced users, many of you are likely on speed dial for some members of your family whenever they’re confounded by computer issues. Previously I had discovered that Windows 10 itself can help control many of the routine issues everyday users experience plus the Quick Assist Tool in the operating system makes it easy to connect with a remote system. Although Windows 10 itself has good security — and you can force a user to use Microsoft Edge to prevent random toolbar installs since all Edge extensions must be installed from the Windows Store — you can still experience some issues such as drive-by downloads of malicious software. In addition, how about those fake pop-ups asking a user to update their Flash install? Your relatives may still click on those. Microsoft’s Windows 10s — launched as a variation of Windows 10 for educational institutions– can be used in situations where you want to prevent malicious software from entering and executing on the system from any avenue. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
The answer is, “Sort of.” Before I explain, here’s a brief reminder of what that feature is, why it was so well-loved in Windows 8.1, and what aspects of it have come back now. An extremely popular feature of Microsoft’s consumer cloud storage offering in Windows 8.1, OneDrive Placeholders allowed a user to view all of their files stored in OneDrive on any device that used their Microsoft Account to log in. When a user viewed their OneDrive files locally, every folder and file in the OneDrive account was displayed in File Explorer. It was a nice way to see what files you had stored. There were options to choose which files to download and store locally; a user had to make sure they did this for any files they would need offline access to. You could select individuals files or entire folders to make sure they were stored on the physical hard drive. As development of Windows 10 was nearing its initial release in June 2015, Microsoft announced that this feature would be deprecated and removed from OneDrive. Instead, Windows 10 users would be able to see their OneDrive contents via a process called selective sync. Windows 10 users were not pleased … Read More