Is Microsoft’s bullying about to end?

Hammer and Keyboard

Microsoft has lost an appeal case and must pay $10,000 for forcing Windows 10 onto a user

A Californian travel agent has been awarded $10,000 compensation by a court after successfully arguing that an unauthorised upgrade to Windows 10 damaged her business by rendering her machine almost unusable.

Teri Goldstein said that she hadn’t deliberately installed the operating system. Indeed, she hadn’t even heard of it. The upgrade failed several times, but when it did eventually complete, it left the machine limping and crashing.

Ms Goldstein didn’t simply go straight for Microsoft’s throat by taking legal action. She tried to resolve the issue with Microsoft’s support but didn’t get anywhere. Eventually she took them to court claiming for lost wages and for the cost of a new computer. She runs her own business and claimed that she had to buy the new computer because the mess that her old one was in was costing her business.

Microsoft Bully

Will Microsoft’s bullying stop now?

Surprisingly, and maybe even rather insultingly, Microsoft didn’t send a single one of their legal bods to argue the case in court. Instead, they apparently just sent someone from a local Microsoft store. This strikes me as extraordinary. Or maybe the legal idea of a “precedent” doesn’t carry the same weight in the USA as it does over here. I would have thought that this case could potentially clear the way for any number of upset Windows users to get some retribution after falling for Microsoft’s tricks and bullying in upgrading their machines to Windows 10 against their will. It surprises me that Microsoft seem not to be at all bothered by this possibility.

While thinking about writing this blog post, I have been musing on all those ads we see everywhere from the ambulance chasers – “Are you entitled to compensation for the mis-selling of PPI?” Just imagine the irony if a whole new industry were to spring up based around suing Microsoft for forcing Windows 10 onto us all. The irony that I am thinking of is that it is now becoming an accepted fact that Microsoft will be introducing more and more advertising into Windows 10 itself. What if a sizable chunk of that advertising market turned out to be from legal firms punting for business from dis-satisfied Windows 10 customers? I suppose that Microsoft would just refuse to carry the ads.

On the subject of Microsoft tricking us into installing Windows 10, what do you know? Just weeks before the free update to Windows 10 expires (at the end of July), Microsoft have finally agreed to include a button in their upgrade offer that says “No, I do not want Windows 10. Please go away and boil your head. If I want Windows 10 I will ask for it, but, in the meantime, stop trying to trick or force me into having it”.

OK, it doesn’t quite say that. According to Terry Myerson (Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group Executive VP), “The new experience has clearer options to upgrade now, choose a time, or decline the free offer”. I think that the cynicism of this move, just weeks before their “free offer” closes anyway, is absolutely breathtaking.

I can’t think of anything else to say.

Windows 10 Decline Free Offer

Microsoft has finally included the option to “Decline free offer”

My previous blogs on Microsoft’s tactics over the introduction of Windows 10 can be found at:

Windows 10 Free Upgrade Offer Will End on 29th July 2016 (supposedly)
Windows 10 Free Upgrade Offer in its last 3 months
Windows 10 – Like It or Lump It

Sources for this blog post include:

The Register
Seattle Times
Ars Technica


So, Microsoft will start charging for Windows 10 with effect from the end of July

Yet another Windows 10 logoThis was announced on the Windows blog on May 5th. The UK price for Windows 10 Home will be £99.99 (including VAT). The US price will be $119. With the US$ currently worth about £0.68, I’d say they’re overcharging us, even allowing some margin for currency fluctuations. Despite the announcement, I still wouldn’t bet against Microsoft introducing some kind of “extended offer due to public demand” between now and the end of July.

It remains to be seen what tactics they are going to use after July to persuade recalcitrant Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade, but I can tell you that they are certainly stepping up the pressure in this period when upgrading is still free. As long ago as last autumn, we learned that Microsoft intended to “re-style” Windows 10 from being a completely new product to being a “recommended update”. I wrote about this in my blog of November 14th – “Windows 10 – like it or lump it“.

The upshot of this clever bit of legerdemain is that they are able to install Windows 10 without your needing to give them any new permission. If you already allow Windows to install its own updates automatically then you might wake up any day now to find that you’ve been upgraded. This happened to a client of mine last week and I saw him a few days ago to help him get over the culture shock of the new product. And last week I was doing some routine maintenance on another client’s machine and saw a screen come up that included the text “Your free Windows 10 upgrade is scheduled for ….”. Luckily, there was a cancel button (I know the client didn’t want Windows 10), so I was able (I hope!) to avert the problem.

I nicked the screengrab below from a PC World blog (the magazine, not the shop) that investigates the traps and supposed get-outs that Microsoft are laying all over the place at the moment. If you think you might already have seen a warning that Windows 10 is about to be installed on your machine and you want to stop it, then I suggest that you read this PC World blog. Do it very soon but read it slowly and carefully!

Windows 10 - Upgrade Scheduled

I have read in more than one place that it’s possible to reserve your free upgrade to Windows 10 some time between now and the end of July, but to install it at a later time to suit your own convenience. I don’t actually recommend this because I can imagine there’d be tears before bedtime if attempting it. Nevertheless, if the idea appeals to you, here is How-To Geek’s article on reserving your free upgrade to Windows 10.

Microsoft BootI have also read somewhere that Microsoft have promised to stop hassling people to upgrade after the free upgrade period ends, but I can’t find the reference again and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I believe it anyway. Is it just my own world-weariness and cynicism, or is it really an absolute disgrace that Microsoft are bullying, manipulating, and even deceiving us in their monomaniacal mission to get everyone in the Milky Way using Windows 10? No, it’s not just me. One of my computer support clients emailed me just yesterday about this subject and asked “Is this one of Microsoft’s most sneaky, unethical and immoral acts so far?”. I’d say it is.

So, should you upgrade to Windows 10 now? Well, if you’ve managed to dodge the bullets so far, and really don’t want it, then I think I would advise trying to hold out until the end of July to see if the bullying, cajoling, and trickery really do stop. And good luck with that.

“Good thing, too” you may say, “who wants it?”

Windows 10 - yet another logoMicrosoft’s offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 for existing Windows 7 and 8 users is due to end on July 29th – just three months away.

So what will happen after that? Well, there appear to be only three possibilities:

The offer will be ended

In view of the aggression that Microsoft have shown in getting qualifying systems owners to upgrade, it might seem a bit odd if they were to just give up now – “that’s it, you’ve had your chance. You wanted to stay with Windows 7/8 so have it your way. Stick with your old, reliable version. See if we care”. That seems a bit unlikely.


The offer will be extended

This would seem to be the easiest thing for them to do. It would mean that their Windows 10 juggernaut could continue rolling across the globe without any special effort on their part. I can already imagine the rather lame PR language “… so many of you have praised Windows 10 as the best thing since sliced bread that we’ve decided to extend the opportunity to get it free of charge for another three months”.

A different offer will be made

They could turn the screws on people who haven’t yet upgraded by continuing their present aggressive tactics, coupled with the stark decision that people will have to pay for it (maybe £100?) if they don’t act upon a new offer. The only problem I can see with this approach is that they would, eventually, have to end any offer or risk losing all credibility.

So, should you upgrade now and get it over and done with, or wait and see what they come up with?

But for two important facts, I might suggest that you bite the bullet and go for the upgrade while you know it is free. Those two important facts are two big problems that some people have encountered in Windows 10. I’m not suggesting that these are the ONLY problems with Windows 10 and I’m not suggesting that everyone encounters them, but they are worrying because Microsoft doesn’t seem to know what is causing them and there is no foolproof fix that works in all cases. These problems are:

1) Start menu problems

Start Menu - Critical Error Message

Some users have been faced with variations of the following error message when clicking on the Start menu button – “ Critical Error – Your Start menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in”.

Suggestions for a fix to this problem include:

  • booting into safe mode and then re-booting into normal mode
  • creating a new administrator account
  • uninstalling and then reinstalling your antivirus program

All of this is very hit-and-miss and no-one (Microsoft included) seems to know what the problem is. If you would like to get some idea as to the scale of this problem, just take a look at this Microsoft discussion page on the Windows 10 Start Menu critical error problem.

2) Network connection issues

Some users can’t connect to the internet, and some can’t connect to other computers on the same local network. There are lots and lots of suggestions out there as to what to try. See this Microsoft page on connection issues, for example.

I spent hours recently on this problem on a client’s machine that we had just “upgraded” (huh!) to Windows 10. Eventually I managed to resolve the problem by repairing the Windows installation (using the inbuilt repair process). The problem with this process is that, although it keeps all the user data intact, all programs have to be reinstalled, reconfigured etc. As I say, in this instance the repair worked, but what if it hadn’t? Goodness knows. Once again, Microsoft do not appear to know what is causing the problem.

Man thinking

“Hmm, stick with Windows 7, upgrade to Windows 10, or go and live in a cave?”

Windows 10 has now been “on general release” for nine months. It’s very worrying that problems such as these are still present – without apparent cause and without failsafe repair methods. Because of such problems, my advice at the moment is NOT to upgrade to Windows 10 if you have a reasonably functional Windows 7 or Windows 8 system. Who knows? Maybe these unresolved problems will be resolved before the current offer of a free upgrade to Windows 10 expires on July 29th (the first anniversary of the release date).

My advice on what to do as we get nearer to the end of the free upgrade period will depend on what Microsoft say will happen after July 29th and on whether or not resolutions are found to problems in the existing version.

Not a very satisfactory situation, is it?

Figure 1

Figure 1

At the end of last week’s blog about Windows 8.1, I pointed out the option to go straight to the desktop when opening Windows. If you’ve been to that dialog box you will have seen that it also offers the option to tick a box to display the desktop background image as a background image on the Start Screen. This does make the switch between desktop and Start Screen less jarring. See Figure 1 for the full dialog box.

You will also see another option in this dialog box that suggests that Microsoft have been listening to feedback from users. A lot of us found it a real nuisance that navigating to the top righthand corner of a screen in order to close a program would often bring up the list of so-called “charms” because we’d moved the mouse past the corner of the screen. This unwanted result can now be prevented by unticking the box next to “When I point to the top-right corner, show the charms”. There is a similar option to stop the intrusion of the last “app” used when sliding off the top lefthand corner of the screen.

How do I get the upgrade to 8.1 if I declined it when the offer popped up on my screen?

The upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 takes place from the Windows Store. It is not just a link in any old Microsoft web page. This means that even if you normally sign into Windows 8 with a “local account”, you will need to sign into your Microsoft account to get at the upgrade (see this recent blog re signing in to Windows 8 ). So, if you are one of those people who found it a pain creating a Microsoft account when installing Windows 8, and didn’t think you would ever need it, here’s an example of an occasion when you will need to have its details handy.

I suppose it’s just possible that I had a senior moment during the upgrade process and that something happened (or didn’t happen) that left me needing to sign in to my Microsoft account to open Windows 8.1 when the upgrade had taken place. The cynic in me says that Microsoft have nudged me in the direction they want me to go. The pessimist in me says that I’m probably losing the plot and took a wrong option somewhere during the upgrade process. The realist in me reminds me that it doesn’t matter as it’s possible to switch back to using a local account as detailed in this recent blog.

Tiled Apps

There are many changes, additions, and enhancements to the “tiled apps” available from the Start Screen. I’m not sure whether I ought to apologise for not being able to give you an enthusiastic, in-depth analysis of these changes. The truth is, I just don’t care very much about this side of Windows 8 computing. If I want to do “fun things” I’ll pick up my iPad.

Homer and Windows 8.1Of course, if my computer support clients want to know more about these “apps” then I will pay them more attention. As I recently said, though, I’ve only ever had one client even mention Microsoft’s Surface computer to me (where these “apps” presumably shine), and I can only think of one client in the last year (since Windows 8 was released) who has shown any real enthusiasm for the Start Screen and its “tiled apps”. Maybe you all love them but don’t want to risk incurring my disdain by saying so. I doubt that, somehow, so I’m going to continue not paying them much attention. If you’d like a more enthusiastic view of this aspect of Windows 8.1, then try this blog.

There are also changes to how things are displayed in “File Explorer” (or “Windows Explorer” as it was called prior to Windows 8). We used to look for “My Computer” as the option to prowl around the contents of the computer. This became less patronising in Windows 7 by just calling it “Computer”. In Windows 8.1 it has become “This PC”.

Summary

8.1 Install Screen

ZZzz………zz…….zz…….

I must stress that this is the first time I’ve upgraded Windows 8 to 8.1 so the experience may not be typical. Yours may be different. If it’s possible to conclude anything from a single instance, I would say that the upgrade process is slow but that 8.1 seems to have user advantages over Windows 8. Whether you actually need to perform the upgrade is another matter, but I’d say that the security argument probably wins the day. I can’t yet say whether it was Windows 8.1 that broke my Outlook calendars, but I’m glad I took a copy of my Outlook “pst” file just before the upgrade.

And now, after one more week’s experience of 8.1, I’m happy to report that everything seems to be back to its previous speed. Not only that, but my calendar synch is working again – with no intervention from me. Nothing else has happened that shouldn’t have, and I’m a happy bunny who is glad to have Windows 8.1 instead of 8.

Last month, I mentioned that the latest release of Windows 8 (Windows 8.1) appeared to cause problems sometimes

– see this previous blog post on Windows 8.1

Not having heard any more discouraging tales, I bit the bullet earlier this week and started the download. If you have been receiving nags from Microsoft that 8.1 is available now and that they recommend that you go for it, then be warned – it’s a big download and then it takes forever to install. I didn’t time it as I wasn’t expecting time to be an issue, but I think it must have been about three hours in all. Admittedly, it doesn’t need much intervention, so you don’t have to attend to it all the time, but don’t start the process when you’ll need the computer in a few minutes.

Should you bother upgrading to 8.1?

The rather modest new Start button

The rather modest new Start button

It does seem to me that there are improvements as to how you move around and find things. What may be more important is that the security is better than in Windows 8. I don’t pretend to be a computer security expert and I certainly don’t have the inclination to research just what security improvements have taken place in Windows 8.1. It’s enough for me to follow the common sense notion that it’s worth keeping vulnerable software up to date (eg browsers, emails programs, operating systems) wherever possible and wherever there is no reason not to. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle being without your computer for hours and having to keep checking on it to see if it’s finished the update or is waiting for some input from you.

Windows needs to be secure. We don't want to let just anyone in.

Windows needs to be secure. We don’t want to let just anyone in.

As I’ve said before, though, there are some things about computers that we just have to accept as being part of the nature of the beast. Computers and the internet give us instant access to information and people all around the world. That’s absolutely marvellous and would have been almost inconceivable longer ago than just one generation. The flipside of that same coin is that all the scumbags, ne’er-do-wells, hucksters, cheats, and slimeballs also have the same access and also see huge opportunities in all this global access and global connection.

We can’t have one without the other. Therefore, we just have to accept that security is important and that we really should take reasonable steps to keep it current. In my opinion, running the latest version of the operating system, and keeping it updated as much as possible, is a large part of the task of “taking reasonable steps”. So, as long as Windows 8.1 isn’t going to break anything or cause any other major problems, I’d recommend going for it.

What did I find on updating to 8.1?

The first thing I noticed when it had finished was that everything seemed so s—–l—–o—–w—-. Booting up, opening everyday programs such as Firefox and Outlook – it was all a pain. And then my Outlook broke. The calendar synch with Gmail (and thence to Macs and iPads, but that’s another story) stopped working and even send/receive wouldn’t work. Falling back on the timeless advice of both Douglas Adams and Corporal Jones (“Don’t Panic”), I just re-booted the machine two or three times. It definitely started getting back to normal as far as the speed was concerned. Outlook send/receive eventually came back (phheww) but the calendar synch is still broken. Maybe it’s a coincidence. I haven’t investigated yet.

So, what’s new?

Figure 1. Right-clicking on the new Start button brings up a useful menu.

Figure 1. Right-clicking on the new Start button brings up a useful menu.

Well, as promised, they’ve brought back a Start button. All it seems to do at first, though, is toggle between either the last start screen app used and the start screen itself, or between the desktop and the start screen (depending upon whether or not you’ve just been using a start screen app). As far as I can see, it’s exactly the same as the Windows key has always behaved in Windows 8. That doesn’t make it any less confusing: just no more useful. Anyway, I think the usefulness of the Start button is apparent when you right-click on it. This brings up the menu as displayed in figure 1. As you can see, a lot of these options have been brought back from the “old” start button menu – including the options to switch off. I won’t go through all these options now, except to point out that they’ve also included some of the more useful options that have always been present, but buried deep in the Control Panel – such as Power Options, Event Viewer, and System. To my mind, this Start Menu is a useful improvement.

Booting into the desktop instead of the Start Screen

If you don’t use the “Start Screen”, with all its bells and whistles and animations and stuff, and just want to go straight to the familiar territory of the desktop whenever you boot up, this is now possible with a little tweak:

  • Right-click on any empty part of the desktop taskbar (the line at the bottom of the screen that includes icons for open and “pinned” applications etc)
  • Left-click on “Properties”
  • Left-click on the “Navigation” tab
  • Tick the box next to “When I sign in… go to the desktop instead of Start” (see figure 2)
Figure 2. Tick the box to avoid the Start Screen when you boot up in future.

Figure 2. Tick the box to avoid the Start Screen when you boot up in future.

Maybe I’ve whetted your appetite – in which case, look out for the second part of this review of Windows 8.1 next week.

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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