Monthly Archives: May 2015

Windows 10, an Update

We are now roughly at the midway point between when Windows 10 Technical Preview was released (at which point I published my first impression about it), and when it’s supposed to be released in its final (RTM – Release to Manufacturer) version. There have been quite some changes about how it works, and there are more changes to come in the following months before its final version is released.

In my opinion, there is more than one type of public for this new Operating System and therefore Windows 10 will have different reception of it, depending on the type of public that looks at it:

First there’s the type of public that is not fond of changing operating system versions every few years. They liked XP and even Windows 7 was too much of a change (not to mention Windows Vista). For them, Windows 8 or Windows 10 will look similar enough (and too different from what they’re used to) to be liked. If they haven’t moved from Windows XP to Windows 7 yet, I suggest they do, as soon as possible. If they have moved on to Windows 7, I suggest they stay there for now as for as long as they can (maybe up to a few years).

Then there’s the type of public that can adapt to new versions of operating system being released every few years, but are not fond of lost features or buggy new features. They were able to move from Windows XP to 7 and even Vista in between, and can sort of make Windows 8 work. They will probably like Windows 10. If they are presently with Windows 7, they can consider moving on to Windows 10 within the next year or two. If they’re stuck with Windows 8 right now, they should upgrade as soon as Windows 10 is released.

Finally there’s the type of public that simply can make things work, no matter what. They will like Windows 10 as well and can move on from 7 or 8.

For those who are curious and haven’t had a chance to take a look at the current Windows 10 screens as they look at the time of this writing, here’s a sneak peak:

As you boot up, the initial screen looks the same as in Windows 8:













Unlike Windows 8, once you log in Windows 10 goes into the traditional desktop view:












Notice there is a fusion of the old style Start menu (on the left) and the Windows 8 style Start menu (the tiles on the right):Win10-2











You can, however, click on the upper right of the start menu and expand it to become full screen, if you fancy the Windows 8 style better:Win10-4











Notice that the background is still somewhat visible, in a hint of the Aero display theme that was used in Vista and Windows 7 and sort of died in Windows 8.

Careful readers will notice there is a tile in the above screenshot called Project Spartan. That is the code name of the new browser set to debut as the default web browser with Windows 10, and that will make Internet Explorer a secondary, backup browser. The name itself is not final and apparently is changing to Microsoft Edge.

The search function and other Windows apps are being enhanced by using Windows personal assistant, the chatty Cortana, the voice powered assistant whose name was taken from the AI – Artificial Intelligence – character in the famous video game Halo.

In short it seems Microsoft is seriously trying this time to come with an Operating System that will unify all computing devices, be it a traditional desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a phone. There are other features being developed as you read this, and some more are in the works for coming months. I’ll be following up closely on those and how Windows 10 develops, and will update again before the final release date, currently set for the end of the year.










Communication Privacy, Part II

The first part of this article, written recently, went over secure instant messaging. This second part will take up secure email communications.

The subject is extensive enough that it is not easy to cover it comprehensibly in just 2 short articles, while also keeping it understandable for the non-geek. But here we go.

Secure emails: To a greater or lesser degree most people have heard about it. It is often accompanied by words like encryption, et cetera. The idea being that only the sender and the recipient, i.e. the intended parties, are able to access the contents of the emails.

As with everything, several degrees of security exist in different email systems models. The lowest, your “free” Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft email accounts are relatively easy to intercept, and are often scanned by the email providers themselves (as covered in their own Terms of Service you agree to when you get the email account) to search for content that can be used to market products to you. So much for free 🙂 .

A level up are providers like Hushmail, a Canadian company that has been around for about 17 years and which provides encrypted emails and the ability to send emails that require a password to decrypt (decipher, decode), is ad free, and provides a decent level of privacy. It has free and paid versions, depending on how many features are enabled.

Then you have StartMail, brought to you by the creators of Startpage/Ixquick (one of the most private search engines around). This only has a paid version (one can start with a free trial) and provides better security. Again, no ads, encryption based emails, only intended recipient and the sender can read the messages.

Finally my pick as the one that has the most potential for actual full privacy: ProtonMail. The main feature that sets ProtonMail above the rest is that the-end-to-end encryption/decryption happens in your computer/device (seriously, you need a password to get into your account and then a second password to decrypt your inbox on the spot), so even if the Swiss based servers were subverted somehow, it would be impossible to gain access to or decrypt any messages. Also a nice feature is the ability to set the longevity of the of the emails sent (how long after sent do they expire) if so desired.

ProtonMail has been around for a year in Beta (initial) testing stage and still only available by invitation (meaning you’ll be in a waiting list for a little while, as the demand for more users is met).

As a closing remark I’d like to remind you that absolute security is a nice concept, but to me it doesn’t exist. Specially when placed in the context of a rapidly evolving world of computing technology and telecommunications. But as of this writing and so far ProtonMail is the closest I’ve found to secure email communications.

Communication Privacy, Part I

There are probably a couple of articles I can write about current secure methods of communication. Here’s the first of them.

Inherent to the field of computer security is the privacy of telecommunications. On one side of the spectrum we have a hacked computer that has been subverted and it’s easy to access by unauthorized personnel in order to guess email passwords, past messages, contacts, etc. What’s on the other side of the spectrum?

When it comes to instant messaging: Wickr. What in heavens is Wickr?

At the expense of sounding like this is a commercial (it’s not, and it’s impossible to buy a good or bad review from me about a program or device), Wickr is currently my best answer to instant messaging privacy. It’s a program or application that allows for back and forth messaging at a secure level. I’ve been using it in my phone for some time now, from when it was in Beta testing (very early stages) last year. But recently the developers have expanded the type of devices it can be installed in, to include Windows based computers (Windows 7 and above), so I figured now I can write about it.

Why is it on the other side of the security spectrum?

Wickr uses encryption of the highest level and implemented in such a way that only the chosen, authorized devices possess the ability to decrypt the messages, true end-to-end encryption with no middle man. It also provides the ability to set how long a message sent will remain in the receiver’s screen before it’s deleted forever.

I don’t want to go into a lot of data about it because there’s plenty in the Wickr website, so for more information visit the link I just gave you and study the data for yourself. Warning: Prepare to look up a word or two if you go into the details of how it all works.

Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll tackle the most secure email system I’ve found to date.