I had originally been considering accepting Microsoft's offer of a free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. After all, reports have suggested that it's a much more usable system than Windows 8/8.1 -- but of course in keeping with the "every other MS release of Windows is a dog" history, that's a pretty low bar.
However, it appears that MS has significantly botched their deployment of Windows 10. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, even though hope springs eternal.
Since there are so many issues involved, and MS is very aggressively pushing this upgrade, I'm going to run through key points here quickly, and reference other sites' pages that can give you more information right now.
But here's my executive summary: You may want to think twice, or three times, or many more times, about whether or not you wish to accept the Windows 10 free upgrade on your existing Windows 7 or 8/8.1 system.
Microsoft is thrusting out this update via a little white Windows icon that you will probably see soon (if you haven't already) on your task bar. There are some users in some situations who will not receive this notification, but most of us will. This icon leads to MS' colorful spiel for why you want to install the free Win10 upgrade.
First things first. It's obvious from my email today that this icon and MS pitch alone are confusing many users. They've never seen anything like this appear before and many think it's a virus or that their system has been otherwise compromised.
In fact, this notification is triggered by a Windows Update that MS slipped into their update stream some time ago, which the vast majority of users probably accepted without realizing what it was.
If you decide you do not wish to upgrade to Win10 now, you may want to get rid of that notification. MS doesn't tell you how (surprise!) and the procedure can range from relatively simple to "a real mess" depending on your situation, but a good discussion of the procedures and provisos is at:
Many users -- especially on somewhat under-powered systems -- may find Win10 to be a painfully slow experience compared with Win7, irrespective of MS' claims.
Worse, some functionalities important to many users are missing. If you use Windows Media Center -- that's gone from Win10. DVD playback is currently problematic.
And here's a biggy. If you don't want Microsoft installing updates automatically -- if you're a user who has chosen to take control of this process up to now -- you probably will hate Win10.
Users with Home versions of Win10 will be required to accept automatic updates, including drivers.
In some environments, this is unacceptable from a support and security standpoint, and reports are already coming in regarding driver related issues.
It's fair to say that in the general case, automatic updates are usually a win from a security and reliability standpoint. But Windows is significantly unique. Because Windows runs on such an enormously wide range of hardware and configurations (compared for example to Chrome OS on Chromebooks) the ways for automatic updates to cause problems for Windows users are dramatically numerous as well. Definitely an important issue to consider.
You may have heard concerns about the sharing of Wi-Fi passwords by Win10. This is largely not a problem in practice, given the details of the implementation.
But Win10 still looks like it could be a privacy quagmire.
You can read an analysis of this here:
As is the case with automatic updates, there is nothing inherently wrong with cloud data syncing, and it can bring significant service and reliability enhancements to users (keeping in mind how infrequently most people properly backup their systems).
But if you're going to avail yourself of such cloud data services, you really need to trust the firm you're dealing with, across the scope of possible data-related aspects.
And to be completely honest about this, I personally simply do not trust Microsoft to the degree that would seem necessary to use the default data sharing settings that Microsoft really, really, really wants you to use -- and of course that the vast majority of users will blithely accept. To put it another way, in this context I trust Microsoft about as far as I could throw a heavy old steel-cased 1980s PC.
Being careful with your data isn't just a Microsoft thing. My views of Microsoft and Google are pretty much diametrically opposed -- I have enormous faith in Google and Googlers doing the right thing with respect to protecting the data I share with them, but even in the case of Google -- with whom I share a great deal of data -- I'm selective about what I do share.
That's just common sense no matter whom you're dealing with, whether individuals, corporations, or other organizations.
The upshot of all this is that while we can all agree that "free" is often good, there's a lot to think about before accepting Microsoft's heavily promoted upgrade to Windows 10, and we all need to approach this decision with our eyes very wide open, indeed.
Be seeing you.
-- Lauren --
It appears that the cause of the SpaceShipTwo crash was precisely of this sort: the designers never considered the possibility that a particular switch might be flipped at an incorrect time. In this case, it was flipped only a few seconds too soon, at a speed of Mach 0.8 instead of Mach 1.4. (This under rocket power, where acceleration is fast) That caused the tail system to unlock too soon, be ripped free by acceleration, and destroy the spacecraft, killing the co-pilot and severely injuring the pilot.
Scaled Composites' design philosophy of "relying on human skill instead of computers" here reeks of test pilots' overconfidence: the pilots are so good that they would never make a mistake. But at these speeds, under these g-forces, under these stresses, and tested repeatedly, it's never hard for an error to happen.
There are a few design principles which apply here.
(1) It should not be easy to do something catastrophic. There are only a few circumstances under which it is safe for the feathers to unlock, for example, and those are easy to detect based on the flight profile; at any other time, the system should refuse to unlock them unless the operator gives a confirmatory "yes, I really mean that" signal.
(2) Mechanical tasks that can lead to disaster are a bad idea. Humans have limited bandwidth to process things: while our brain's vision center is enormously powerful, our conscious mind's ability to think through things works at language speed, a few ideas per second. Here, time was wasted with a human having to perform a basically mechanical task of unlocking a switch at a particular, precise time. This requires the human to pay attention, time something accurately, and flip a switch, at a time that they should be simply watching out for emergencies. Since the time of unlock is already known long before takeoff, a better design would be for the unlock to happen automatically at the right time -- unless the risks from having an automatic unlocker (perhaps due to a reliability issue, or having a complex part prone to failure) exceed the benefits of removing it.
What's important to learn from this accident is that this error isn't specific to that one mechanism: this is an approach which needs to be taken across the entire design of the system. Every single potential or scheduled human action needs to be reviewed in this way.
An excellent perspective on this comes from James Mahaffey's book Atomic Accidents, a catalogue of things that have gone horribly wrong. In the analysis, you see repeatedly that once designs progressed beyond the initial experimental "you're doing WHAT?!" stage, almost all accidents come from humans pushing the wrong button at the wrong time.
Generally, good practice looks like:
(A) Have clear status indicators so that a human can tell, at a glance, the current status of the system, and if anything is in an anomalous state.
(B) Have "deep status" indicators that let a human understand the full state of some part of the system, so that if something is registering an anomaly, they can figure out what it is.
(C) Have a system of manual controls for the components. Then look at the flows of operation, and when there is a sequence which can be automated, build an automation system on top of those manual controls. (So that if automation fails or is incorrect for any reason, you can switch back to manual behavior)
(D) The system's general behavior should be "run yourself on an autonomous schedule. When it looks like the situation may be going beyond the system's abilities to deal with on its own -- e.g., an anomaly whose mitigation isn't something that's been automated -- alert a human."
The job of humans is then to sit there and pay attention, both for any time when the system calls for help, and for any sign that the system may need to call for help and not realize it.
This wasn't about a lack of a backup system: this was about a fundamentally improper view of humans as a component of a crtiical system.
If you upgrade, have an ethernet connection handy. It wants to finish with some on-line stuff, and your wifi may not be available.
My wifi connection could not be established until I finished the setup with a wired connection and then retried the wifi.
- Dell CompellentStorage Development Principal Engineer, 2012 - present
- Symantec CorporationSoftware Developer, 2004 - 2012
- Cisco, WAM!NET, Network Systems, LaserMaster
I've worked in the computer field, usually networking, for 30+ years, currently with Dell Compellent.
I sing bass in my church choir and have sung with Exultate Chamber Choir and Orchestra. I also play bass guitar when I get a chance.
- Carleton College, Eastern Michigan UHistory
- J.F. K High School, Babbitt, MN
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