North East Blog Directory

August 25, 2015

Community IT Academy

Upgrading to Windows 10 – a personal experience

Upgrading to Windows 10 – a personal experience

Lewis Atkinson shares his experience of upgrading his new laptop to Windows 10. If you are thinking of upgrading your PC or laptop you should also take a look at our article: Should you upgrade to Windows 10?

I recently purchased a new laptop and thought, as a part of the set-up, that I would upgrade it from Windows 8 to 10. Little did I know how long it would take and the kind of frustrations it would entail.

Rule 1 – Keep your system up to date

Although it was a “new” laptop it still needed around 85 Windows updates before it would consider downloading and installing Windows 10 – not that it gave me any warnings, it simply would not download the Windows 10 update.

Rule 2 – Patience, patience, patience

After the initial two hours performing updates, the Windows 10 update took around 1½ hours to download and a further 45 minutes to install. So don’t be in a hurry.

One major irritation is the old Windows 8 trick of making you sign up to a Microsoft account as a part of the install process, this is especially so when all you want to do is access your local network. Microsoft always like you to be a part of their gang, having these types of account makes it easier for them to “keep you informed” (advertise) and to collect information that “helps them to improve their services” (your habits and preferences). I created a “local” user and deleted this account at the first opportunity.

Windows 10 can have adverts or targeted content in the task bar and will send unspecified info to Microsoft for targeted adverts (this cannot be turned off). It does have some other eyebrow-raising features that you may prefer to turn off:

  • If you connect it to your Facebook account it shares your wifi passwords with your friends so that they can easily connect to your internet or hotspots (this can also happen with your Outlook and/or Skype contacts).
  • Your computer and connection can be used to share Windows updates peer to peer (Bittorrent style) around your network.
  • It will share your browsing history and keystrokes with Microsoft to “help improve their service”.
  • Suspected malware files can be sent as “samples” to Microsoft to allow for “testing”.

A careful hunt around the Settings (Privacy) menu did the trick (mostly).

As it was a new laptop it came with the usual “free” trials and unwanted software (anti-virus, Office, games, utilities, etc.). Windows 10 has a perfectly adequate anti-virus built in, I have a valid licence for Office and I have my own preferences for tools and utilities. These took more time clean off.

Rule 3 – Ask the right questions

Finding information and getting my older Epson wireless printer/scanner to work fully was quite a challenge and took another hour or so but at least Office 2010 installed easily.

“Googling” helps but often I had to frame the question precisely to get the desired answers, particularly with third-party websites. For example searching for “Epson Stylus 515w and Windows 10” returned few matches that were helpful. It took a few clicks on links within forums to finally get to a page that actually helped me set up the printer and scanner correctly.

I gave up with Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, as the first few websites I tried didn’t work properly, so I installed Firefox – that works fine. You can even default back to Internet Explorer, thus making Windows 10 even more like Windows 7.

Finding out which of your favourite utilities work can also be a bit tricky so soon after the launch of Windows 10 – Malware Bytes and CCleaner both seem to work but I have yet to test others such as DOSBox.

Malware Bytes “does what it says on the tin”, removing malware can help speed up your PC. CCleaner helps delete any unwanted and unnecessary files, keeps your PC “clean” and operating at peak efficiency. DOSBox will run any old DOS based programmes.

For fans of Solitaire, Windows 10 is a disappointment; it is no longer included as a freebie. The Control Panel will be phased out and replaced with elements within the Settings system but, for now, it can be accessed directly by right clicking the “Start Button” (icon).

Finally, after around six hours I had a laptop that I could make use of.

Upgrading the Desktop

The Windows 7 desktop PC was a completely different “kettle of fish”, Windows 10 went on easily and without disruption but I was careful to make sure that it was fully up to date, I had scanned it for viruses and malware and that it was running at its best. The update had already been downloaded and so the install process took only around 45 minutes.

DOSBox works fine as do all of my other utilities and programs, even the old Epson printer and scanner! The odd thing has asked me to upgrade but by and large (and with fingers crossed) all seems to be fine.

Windows 10, once sorted, seems to be a stable and usable platform. It can be made to look like Windows 7 or 8 (via Tablet mode) and you have the choice of which look to use as default. I have yet to fully explore its other features and functions but at the moment am reasonably happy with the move but would recommend going through the privacy settings very carefully.

by lewis@communityitacademy.org (Lewis Atkinson) at August 25, 2015 09:00 AM

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?

Microsoft has recently released Windows 10. We look at whether your organisation should upgrade.

Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 to current users of Windows 7 or 8. This offer is time limited until July 2016.

Apart from the fact that it is being given away, the case for moving to Windows 10 is pretty weak. There appears not to be a huge increase in functionality from Windows 7 or 8 and eligible charities should be able to obtain it for a nominal amount from tt-exchange if they wish to upgrade in the future (see Windows OS upgrade).

Currently using Windows 7 or 8

Windows 7 offers a safe and trusted environment for the business (or voluntary organisation) user.

Windows 8 has never been popular as a business tool. The tiled environment works well with a touch screen but is less than practical within a “traditional” desktop set-up (screen, keyboard and mouse).

Windows 10 allows you to choose either view as a default. It also boasts a “proper” Start Menu, a new web browser (Edge) and is more familiar to Windows 7 users when trying to navigate to features and functions.

However, if your PC is struggling with Windows 7 or 8 it will probably not be any better with Windows 10.

If you are planning to upgrade we suggest you take a look at our article: Upgrading to Windows 10 – a personal experience

Currently using Windows XP or Vista

Microsoft cease to support products ten years after launch: Windows XP has already lost technical support and Vista will stop being supported in 2017. Windows 7 does not lose support until 2020.

Older operating systems, especially those that have lost support, can be vulnerable to security breaches. However, we would not advise anyone to attempt to upgrade a PC currently running XP or Vista to Windows 10. We suggest that you buy a new PC instead (see below for the recommended spec).

If budget is a problem, check that the PC will meet the minimum requirements (see below) and use Microsoft’s “Get Genuine” programme to first install Windows 7 and then move to Windows 10 under the upgrade offer.

Microsoft claims that a PC with a pretty low spec can run Windows 10:

  • Processor - 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM - 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Free hard disk space - 16 GB
  • Graphics card - Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
  • A Microsoft account and internet access.

We would recommend buying a new desktop PC with at least the following spec:

  • Multi-core processor (e.g. i5)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1 TB Hard Drive
  • 22 inch monitor

What about Microsoft Office?

As with the operating system it is important to keep the Microsoft Office software up to date. Office 2016 is due for launch and older Office versions may be left behind. Office 2016 should be available at low cost from tt-exchange when it is released (see Office Professional Plus).

Our recommendations

  • If you are an XP user then upgrade your PC, operating system (Windows) and office software straight away.

  • If you are a Vista user then you have a little more time but plan for a new PC, operating system and office software, but do it in the short term.

  • If you are using Windows 7 then we see little advantage in upgrading in the short term but in the medium term it may be wise to stay ahead of the game for both Windows and Office. Plan to upgrade within the year.

  • If you are using Windows 8 then, unless you have grown accustomed to it, Windows 10 may prove a little more “business user” friendly. Upgrade immediately.

We close with one final thought – If your PC was a car how long would you keep it for daily use?

XP is fourteen years old, Vista is eight years, Windows 7 is six years and Windows 8 is three years old. Windows 10 could be good until 2025.

by lewis@communityitacademy.org (Lewis Atkinson) at August 25, 2015 09:00 AM

August 13, 2015

Community IT Academy

Write better content for your website

Write better content for your website

A website revamp needn't cost the earth. Sometimes a careful editing of the main pages of your site will make a big and positive difference. Especially if you put yourself in your readers' shoes.

Understand your readers

People read web pages in a different way from print pages. They rarely read all the text on a page from start to finish. More often people scan content because either:

  • they are looking for a small item of information, or
  • they're trying to work out whether the page is the page for them.

You'll need to adjust the structure of your website text to take this into account.

And remember that you are not your reader. You have an in-depth grasp of the topic that they may not. Take care over the language you use and how you approach your topic.

Adapt the structure of your text

  • Make sure that you put the main point of the page up front. Assume that people won't read too far into the page.

  • Use headings and sub-headings where possible. This helps readers to scan content and breaks up long areas of text that can be off-putting.

  • Use lists where appropriate. Listed information is much easier to take in than information buried in a long paragraph of text.

  • Use clear signposting. If your page is encouraging people to take some kind of action, be clear about what their next steps may be.

  • Use sub-pages or related pages to keep pages short. If your page is very long, consider whether chunks of it may work better as sub-pages that you can link off to.

Write in a simple and plain style

Avoid:

  • over-complex sentences,
  • words that people rarely use,
  • unexplained acronyms (which pepper voluntary sector websites!),
  • using 5 words where 2 will do.

Tools such the Hemmingway App help you edit your text to make it more readable.

Before:

"Convoluted text, delivered in a voice that is not your own, and which employs a lexicon unfamiliar to your readership does not mark you out as a great writer; rather, it obscures what you have to say and evidences a certain lack of confidence in the ideas you are trying to express."

After:

"Sometimes people use complex sentence structures and unfamiliar words to sound authoritative. These things make text hard to read. They may also be evidence of the author's lack confidence in her ideas."

Next steps

  • The University of York has produced a helpful Writing for the web guide for their staff. We can all learn from it.

  • The website UXMyths has summarised some research to give us a more accurate idea of how people read on the web.

  • Why not spend half an hour examining a page or two of your website. You might be able to make some quick but effective improvements.

  • At CITA we can offer advice and editing expertise to help you make your website easier to read and use. Get in touch to see what we can offer you.

 

Image credit: Stipula Fountain Pentain Pen by Antonio Litterio is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

August 13, 2015 01:42 PM

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