I have previously written about the waste of time and resources that are programs, usually initially free, that suggest they can improve performance, enhance your registry, or pretty much any other simple maintenance task.
There are a catagory of programs designed to help you maintain device drivers at the latest version. Sometimes they claim to fix problems by modifying drivers. Do not waste time or money installing any of them. Here's why.
A device driver is simply an interface between hardware and Windows. If the hardware works there is liitle scope for improvement. On a test system it has been shown that false concerns are raised by suggesting that old drivers are installed, but this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to upsell the paid version of the program.
The updater software suggests that old versions ?can cause problems, system slowdowns and bluescreen errors.? This is technically true, but very unlikely. It?s also technically true that updated drivers could cause problems, system slowdowns, and blue-screen errors by introducing new bugs. It?s a wash.
The fact is that with the possible exception of graphics drivers for hardcore gamers you don't need driver updates. Any necessary legitimate updates will arrive automatically via Microsoft Update so nothing further needs be done. If you have the urge to see what genuinely is running an old version it is a simple matter to manually run Device Manager then right click each device and 'Update Driver...'.
The concern is partly the waste of money and poor performance that is introduced but also the corruption that often occurs from installing the wrong driver. The difficulty is that to ensure you are not using Windows on more than the number of computers it is licensed for, Microsoft records some details of the hardware and firmware that are not usually changed and compares those each time Windows starts. If there is a difference then they assume that you are trying to run Windows on a different PC and cause the current installation of Windows to become marked as counterfeit. This results in all future genuine Windows updates failing and the computer becoming less secure.
Even worse, unsigned or correctly validated drivers run in protected (kernel) mode and do cause computers to fail to start. In this case reinstalling Windows will not help unless the disk is formatted first.
So the take away message is if it ain't broke don't fix it. If Windows is reinstalled from a generic disk then manufacturer supplied drivers will usually be better than Windows default, but using the right driver is far more important than using the latest version.
It's been three years since I last blogged about femtocells - the little devices that you can plug into the back of your router and act as a miniature mast for the mobile phone signal. If you have a reasonable (perhaps greater than 4 Mbps download) speed broadband line, adding a femtocell can boost your ability to send texts and phone considerable - up to about 15 metres from the device anyway.
You can pick up these devices from between free (from your provider) and £100 but note that it is illegal to use those not sanctioned by your network provider. Whatever it says on eBay, ask for proof of legality before clicking the buy button.
There is a good tutorial on all aspects of the technology over at radio-electronics.com
There are four main networks:
FreedomPop have at last launched in the UK. The standard free package is 200 minutes, 200 texts and 200MB of data a month and is guaranteed to be free for life. They have plans for folks who use more airtime and they are competitively priced - especially if you sign up during their introductory trial period.
You can roll over any unsued date to the next month. At £1.49 a month, it doesn't cost a lot, but it is more than free. You can roll over up to 500MB of unused data per month, and store a total of 20GB of roll over data in all.
You can share data with friends and family, but only if they're on FreedomPop. You can sign up to receive usage alerts so that you won't incur any additional charges, and you can be assigned a virtual international phone number so people in other countries can call you for free.
https://www.freedompop.com/uk takes to to a place where you can select the type of Sim you want and buy it for about a fiver.
Claimed benfits include:
However there are things to note:
There be confusion in the shires as people receive "Password Incorrect" errors when the password has been held in the mail client (Windows Live Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, 3rd party email apps on Android devices etc.) unchanged for years. This causes folks to think their account has been hacked so they change the password; but woa - the same error message pops up again ! What's that about ?
The security minded people who run Gmail unilaterally decided that the old way of authenticating: passing your username and password in unencrypted form, is too insecure for comfort. So rather than setting an appropriate error message they chose to frighten folks with a cryptic puzzler.
This only applies with mail clients using the older 'basic' authentication methods such as those above; clients using OAuth 2.0 will not suffer so. What's to be done ? There are three possible solutions.
It's been publicly available for a few months and in public beta test for several before that so all the teething troubles that are going to be found and removed probably have been. So should you upgrade ?
If you are reasonably competent with administering your computer then I suggest you should as the benefits are certainly worth having. There are, however, a few points to follow before the upgrade to save yourself a pile of pain.
Now you're ready to kick off the upgrade. Make sure the power cable is connected and if possible, provide a wired internet connection to speed things along. There are a couple of screens to go through but after 5 - 10 minutes you are ready to get on with something else and pop back in 2 to 3 hours depending on the speed of your computer and the internet connection. After the task is complete you have a few post upgrade tasks to complete.
Now you're ready to check out the new features and have some fun with them. Note that to get anything from the Windows Store - even the free apps - you will need a Microsoft account. This is also necessary to make use of the (free) 15GB OneDrive storage that can be used for sharing photos etc. You can use your existing email address to do this.
There will be a new app installed called 'getting started', this is an introduction to the new features of Windows 10 and certainly worth a gander.
Having now installed Windows 10 several times a few gotchas and tips are ready to leave my fingertips. Things normally (anecdotally 85% of the time) go well but I have personally encountered several failed installs so it is essential to take an image of your system partition before you begin.
These are just the issues I have personally encountered. The forums are full of other problems that some people have bumped up against. However, as time goes by it is expected that Microsoft will address these issues by way of updates. It is probably wise to ensure you have a clean system before you start by following the process described in an earier blog.
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