Slow Charger Warning Means Underpowered Thunderbolt Dock

Here’s one I haven’t run into before. I wanted to use multiple USB-C ports on my Lenovo X390 Yoga yesterday. Alas, it has but one. So I plugged it into a Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Gen2 dock the company sent me. Even though it was for another computer I expected all itches properly scratched. Instead I learned that a slow charger warning means underpowered Thunderbolt dock at work. In fact, by the next morning, the battery was exhausted and the laptop inert, amidst a massive PC-to-iTunes music conversion.

Given Slow Charger Warning Means Underpowered Thunderbolt Dock, Then What?

Find a workaround, obviously. Luckily the X390 sports two USB 3 ports. I used one for the drive dock where the music files resided, and the other for the iPhone 12’s Lightning-to-USB cable. I ended up not using USB-C at all (except for power from the dock and then the brick later on).

In fact, the Lenovo Dock claims to support “up to 65W power charging.”  And indeed, the X390 needs 65W of power delivery. But obviously, something wasn’t right. In fact, Reliability monitor showed an APPCRASH from PowerMgr.exe at 7:12 this morning. I guess that’s when the battery finally died. When I saw the error message after this morning’s walk I switched back to the regular power brick and the music transfer continued without further hitches or delays.

The moral of this story appears to be: if notifications ever tell you there’s a “slow charger” at work, you’d best use a different power supply if you want to keep your laptop running indefinitely. Lesson learned for me, for sure!

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Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer

On July 22, I noted that my Insider Preview test machine hadn’t yet received a Windows 11 upgrade offer. This, despite assertions that such an offer was “coming soon” raised my curiosity, if not my ire. “Where’s mine?” I asked in the covering tweet for that story. Turns out it was where everybody else’s was, too: nowhere (not here yet). But yesterday, July 29, MS opened the Windows 11 floodgates to the Beta Channel. Thus, like many others, I witnessed and participated as Beta Channel Insiders get Windows 11 offer.

If you check the lead graphic for this story above, you’ll see the Beta Channel status window at right. It appears alongside Winver.exe output left, that shows this PC running Windows 11.

When Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer, What Next?

Just for grins, I timed the download and install processes for the new OS. I’m guessing server demand was high, because both took some time to complete. Download took 14:42, and Install took another 28 minutes and a bit more. Normally, OS download occurs in 5 minutes or less. Of course, the installation time is all on the local PC, so the servers have nothing to do with that.

Reliability Monitor also shows 3 “Stopped working” errors just after installation completed, while post-install updates and clean-up were underway. These included:

  • FwdUpdateCmd: a Lenovo System Update Plug-in, which probably hasn’t been updated and/or vetted for Windows 11 yet.
  • UsoClient: shows a BEX64 error, which usually indicates some kind of issue with Outlook. Interesting, because I don’t have MS Office installed on that PC. Might be related to the built-in Office trial.
  • Audio device graph isolation (audiodg.exe) shows an APPCRASH error, with CX64APO.dll as the faulting module. I recognize this as related to the Conexant audio driver present on the X380 Yoga. This is probably a driver hiccup incident to installation. From what I can see in Driver Store Explorer (RAPR.exe), all the current drivers are now stable and correct.

As I’ve been doing with Windows 11 on Dev Channel PCs, I’ll continue to explore, play and learn. I remain favorably impressed with this new OS, and look forward to learning and doing more with it in the weeks and months ahead. And yes, I’m glad to finally have another upgrade show up through “official channels.”

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Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence

Interesting news from the latest version of MIcrosoft’s Windows Lifecycle FAQ (updated July 24, 2021). It says upgrade frequency will change with Windows 11. No more semi-annual “feature updates” that characterized Windows 10 (e.g 20H1, 20H2, 21H1 and 21H2). Instead,  one such update/upgrade happens each year. Most likely, it will hit in October. That’s why I say that Windows 11 adopts annual upgrade cadence in this post’s title.

When Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence, What Else?

In the FAQ, we also get information about the servicing timeline for Windows 11 versions. Here’s a snapshot of the table clipped straight from the FAQ. It answers this question: “What is the servicing timeline for a version (feature update) of Windows 11?”

Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence.servicing

Business, education and IoT versions have a 3 year timeline; other versions get two years.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

What is a servicing timeline anyway?

As I understand it, this is the length of time that Microsoft will provide updates and enhancements for a particular Windows version or release. When that interval expires, PCs must update to a more current — and still-supported — version. Business, education and I0T versions benefit from a longer timeline. Consumer, end-user and SMB focused versions (Windows 11 Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations, and Home) get a shorter timeline with more frequent upgrades expected.

As the footnote says, Windows 10 Home “does not support … deferral of feature updates.” Thus, it will usually not hang around long enough to get forcibly  updated when an older version hits its planned obsolescence date.

Very Interesting! This should make things easier for everybody, especially for IT departments in larger organizations. They most adopt an “every other year” upgrade cadence anyway…

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Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still In Use?

The old saying goes: “The numbers don’t lie.” Alas, I’ve been messing with numbers long enough to know that they don’t always capture the whole truth, either. Please indulge me for a moment, while I make a case for the size of the Windows 7 PC population. Warning! That case leads to the question that headlines this item: Are over half-a-billion Windows 7 PCs still in use? Sounds a bit high, as numbers go, so I’ll lay my reasoning out.

Why Ask: Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still in Use?

According to NetMarketShare.com, the platform version numbers for Windows 10 stand at 57.85% of desktops, versus 24.79% for Windows 7. MS has recently asserted that 1.3B active monthly users run Windows 10. Using that as a baseline, I calculate that if this number is accurate, there must be just over 557M Windows 7 PCs in use by proportion. How many of these are VMs, and how many are physical PCs is anybody’s guess.

Let’s say that 2 of 3 Windows 7 instances run on physical PCs just for grins. That would mean 557M Windows 7 OS instances translate into around 371 million devices running this now-obsolete OS. Recall that EOL for Windows 7 hit on January 14, 2020, 10.25 years after it debuted on October 22, 2009. These machines will be prime candidates for Windows 10 upgrades, because in all likelihood most of them will be unable to meet Windows 11 hardware requirements.

Another Question Comes to Mind…

As I tweeted last Friday, this raises another question. That question is: Will Windows 11 hardware requirements spur an uptick in Windows 10 installs, as older Windows 7 PCs get a “last and final” upgrade? Personally, I’m inclined to believe the answer is “Yes.”

Here are my reasons for so believing:
1. Because Windows 10 EOL is October 14, 2025, that buys time for home and business (mostly small business) users to save up for a hardware refresh to make themselves Windows 11-ready.
2. It reflects common practice in upgrading, where many users — again, especially those in  SMBS — deliberately trail the leading edge of Windows releases in the name of improved stability, reliability and understanding.
3. It’s always easier and cheaper (at least, in terms of current cash flow) to defer upgrades and hardware purchases until later, rather than to act sooner. That said, it gives more time for planning, lets others do the hard work of pioneering, and offers greater comfort in making changes at a time of the buyer’s choosing.

How all this actually plays out remains to be seen. If my numbers have any bearing on what’s out there in the real world, things could get interesting. I have to believe the big OEMs — Lenovo, Dell, HP, and other players (Acer, Asus, LG, and so forth) — are pondering this closely and carefully. I’m betting that PC sales will remain strong until 2026 and beyond, though probably not at pandemic levels, as the workplace returns to more customary modes of operation. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.

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Surface Pro 3 Gets 21H2 Feature Update

OK, then. The Windows release environment has now forked. Those PCs running the Release Preview version of Windows 10  can go one of two ways. Those who don’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements get an upgrade to 20H2 (Build 19044.1147) . The others get an invite to upgrade to Windows 11. Because my 2014 vintage Surface PC  falls into the first category, that Surface Pro 3 gets 21H2 feature update. The lead-in graphic provides more info, from Settings → System → About.

If Surface Pro 3 Gets 21H2 Feature Update, Then What?

This reminds me that Windows 10 has a planned life until October 2025. That’s 50 months from now, not counting July 2021 in the tally (50.35 months, countlng the 11 days remaining in this month). I find myself reconsidering hanging onto the old but still reliable SP3 as a way to keep up with Windows 10 even as most of my PC fleet switches over to Windows 11 later this year.

Other businesses and organizations may find themselves forced to straddle this fork, too. That’s because not everyone will be able to replace older hardware right away to make themselves Windows 11 ready.

Life on the Trailing Edge of Technology

If my experience with many small businesses is any indicator, Windows 11 will probably provide a wake-up call to those still running Windows 7. At least, most such systems will upgrade to Windows 10 and can keep running until October 14, 2025 when Windows 10 End-of-Life hits. This adds another 50 months to the planning and upgrade cycle, at which point businesses will find themselves more or less compelled to “move on up” to Windows 11.

NetMarketShare still reports the Windows 7 population as just under 24.8% of overall desktops. I think it’s pretty safe to guesstimate that 80-plus percent of those PCs won’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements on grounds of boot type (MBR vs. UEFI), CPU generation (7th or lower, mostly lower), and lack of TPM 2.0 support. This could lead to an upswelling of Windows 10 numbers, even as that OS marches toward its own EOL date.

But that’s the way things work sometimes, here in Windows -World!

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Windows App Update Blues

OK, then. I just got back from a nearly two-week hiatus (see yesterday’s blog post for a trip report). For the past day and a bit more, I’ve been catching up my 10 PCs. In part, that means updating the apps on those machines. Indeed, this experience has me singing the “Windows App Update Blues.” They’re nicely illustrated in the lead-in graphic for this story, which shows two apps on my primary production PC that lack built-in update facilities despite widespread proliferation and use (Kindle) and a pricey paid-for license (Nitro Pro).

Why Sing Those Low-Down Windows App Update Blues?

It’s nearly inconceivable that Amazon, that paragon of modern software efficiency and might, doesn’t include an updater for the Kindle reader. Ditto for Nitro Pro, which makes me shell out over US$100 for updates to this powerful and otherwise handy PDF tool on a more-or-less yearly basis.

Updates are not that simple on either side. For Kindle on PC, I have to visit the “free Kindle app” page at Amazon. Because I stay logged into the site, clicking “Download for PC & Mac” brings a file named KindleForPC-installer-1.32.61109.exe to my PC. Then, I have to run the installer, and it gets updated. Thankfully, this does not require me to remove the older version manually by way of post-install cleanup. Question: why can’t I get an update through the usual Help → About sequence typical for most Windows apps?

Nitro Pro has a “Visit our website” link on its Help → About pane. I guess that’s intended to streamline the manual update process. But each time I have to upgrade, I have to remember to visit the Downloads page via the website’s page footers, and manually download the latest version. While Amazon is at least kind enough to rename its updates so you can tell them apart, all four versions of Nitro pro 13 share the same filename: nitro_pro13.exe so only file creation dates distinguish them from one another. Then, something called “Nitro Pro SysTray” blocks installation until I instruct the installer to shut it down manually. After that, things work their way to proper completion. It, too, cleans up older versions (thank goodness).

But the Question Lingers: Why Manual?

I’m still not happy that I have to run this stuff down on my own and run updates manually. I hope somebody at Amazon and Nitro notices this item, and takes appropriate action. Given that most programs do this automatically, why can’t their apps do the same?

 

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Vacation Return Means Posts Resume July 19

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been silent since July 5. That’s because the family and I took off on a great summer driving vacation on July 6 and just got back last night. I can now report that our vacation return means posts resume July 19 here at edtittel.com. Here’s a quick peek at our ambitious and sometimes tiring visiting/driving schedule:

Day  1  Round Rock     Big Spring, TX
Day  2  Big Spring     Albuquerque, NM
Day  3  Albuquerque    Colorado Springs, CO
Day  4  Colorado Spgs  Breckenridge, CO
Day  5  Breckenridge   Durango, CO
Day  8  Durango        Taos, NM
Day  9  Taos           Amarillo, TX
Day 10  Amarillo       Round Rock (home)

If Vacation Return Means Posts Resume July 19, What Happened?

I had several peak culinary experiences, including the best chicken fried steak (EVER) at the Settles Hotel in Big Spring, TX. Also really enjoyed a french dip at Seasons Restaurant in Durango on some truly wonderful local whole-grain bread. And a not-to-be-missed “meat coma” at the Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery in Amarillo.

We drove three thrilling and sometimes scary mountain roads. Two in Colorado included Highway 9 into Breckenridge and Highway 550 (including the famous “million dollar highway”) into Durango. In New Mexico, HIghway 104 from Las Vegas to Tucumcari bid a beautiful end to our mountain driving adventures.

We rode the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge train, and saw the magnificent and amazing Mesa Verde National Park near Durango. We also walked lots of mountain and/or tourist town main streets, drinking in the scenery and the mix of locals and visitors there.

All in all, it was a great adventure. All of us — Dina, Gregory and myself — had a great time.  10 nights away from home and 7 different hotels later, we gladly slept in our own beds last night.

Random Trip Highlights

We set a new “record MPG” in Dina’s E250 Bluetec diesel on this trip: 56 MPG riding a very long downhill stretch on I-70 from Vail to Grand Junction, CO. For the whole trip, we averaged just under 43 mpg, which reflects a large fraction of uphill driving.

In Colorado Springs, we stayed at the fabulous Broadmoor. Everybody should be so lucky at least once in their lives. It was amazing! The Settles Hotel in Big Spring proved a surprisingly good reason to visit that small Texas hamlet, the Rattlesnake Queen notwithstanding. I had at least four good bowls of chili on the trip, and an outstanding “Chile Colorado” in Mancos, CO on the way back from Mesa Verde National Park to Durango.

All in all, it was a terrific trip. Lots of beautiful scenery, interesting activities, and many, many miles covered (well over 2,000). Suitably refreshed and reinvigorated I’ll be covering my usual Windows topics on Monday. Stay tuned!

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Audacity Announces Data Harvest Plans

Dang! I just came across a news item that indicates one of my favorite audio recording and editing apps may be going over to the dark side. I’m talking about the long-time, well-known open source freeware program Audacity. Following  its April acquisition by the Muse Group, the program’s privacy policy updated on July 2. Alas, in that policy, Audacity announces data harvest plans. These include include telemetry data, and sharing of such data.

Audacity Announces Data Harvest Plans: What Kind?

What kind of data will Audacity collect? The types of data to be collected seem pretty innocuous. Namely, OS version, user country based on IP address, OS name and version, CPU. Also, non-fatal error codes and messages, and crash reports in Breakpad MiniDump format. I don’t see any personally identifiable information here, except for the IP address.

Who gets to see it? The desktop privacy notice reads “Data necessary for law enforcement, litigation and authorities’ requests (if any).” Legal grounds for sharing data are “Legitimate interest of WSM Group to defend its legal rights and interests.” That said, we also find language that reads such data may be shared with “…a potential buyer (and its agents and advisors) in connection with any proposed purchase, merger or acquisition of any part of our business…”

What has the user community most up in arms is that Muse asserts the right to occasionally share “…personal data with our main office in Russia…” This contravenes requirements of the GDPR, and could potentially violate data sovereignty requirements in certain EU countries (e.g. Germany) and elsewhere.

Does This Mean It’s Time to Bail on Audacity?

Not yet. These new provisions don’t take effect until the next upgrade to the program (version 3.0.3, one minor increment up from current 3.0.2) take effect. But a lot of people, including me, will be thinking long and hard about whether or not to upgrade. At a bare minimum, it might make sense to run Audacity in a VM through a VPN connection, to obscure its origin and user.

Note: Here’s a shout-out to Anmol Mehrotra at Neowin whose July 6 story “Audacity’s privacy policy update effective makes it a spyware” brought this chance of circumstances to my attention.

Note Added July 23: Audacity Updates Policy

If you check this story from Martin Brinkmann at Ghacks.net, you’ll see that Audacity has retreated from all of its controversial or questionable privacy policy language. Seems like the resulting user reactions caused them to revisit, reconsider and move away from data harvest that could touch on user ID info and addresses. Frankly, I’m glad to see this: I like the program, and am happy to understand its new owners have decided to leave its prior policy positions unchanged.

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WhyNotWin11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative

Some Windows users are purists by deliberate choice. Given the option of a Microsoft and a third-party too, they’ll take the MS route every time. I am no such purist. I appreciate good tools, whether from Microsoft or another (reputable) source. Thus, I’d like to observe that the GitHub project WhyNotWin11 offers PC Health Check Alternative. Indeed MS has temporarily taken down its tool. PC Health Check is available only from 3rd-party sources, such as TechSpot right now. Thus, WhyNotWin11 has the current advantage.

Why Say WhyNot11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative?

Though PC Health Check has been out of circulation for a week or so, WhyNot11 got its most recent update on July 3. Visit its Latest Release page for a download (version number 2.3.0.5 as I write this). You can also update the previous version 2.3.03 by downloading the latest SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt file and copying it over the previous version in the %Appdata%\Local\WhyNotWin11 folder.

Note: on my PC, that’s
C:\Users\\AppData\Local\WhyNotWin11\SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt.

WhyNotWin11 Is More Informative, Too

This story’s lead-in graphic shows the information that the third-party tool displays about target PCs. It provides a complete overview of which requirements are met (green), which aren’t listed as compatible (amber), and which are missing or disabled (red). This is more helpful than the output from PC Health Check. See it output below:

PC Health Check only briefly explains part of what’s at issue, and tersely at that.

While the message above does explain the “the processor isn’t supported,” it also fails to note the absence (as I know it to be on this PC) of a Trusted Platform Module (2.0 or any other version). WhyNotWin11 notifies users about both conditions directly and obviously.

IMO, easy access and operation, and more information about the target PC all make WhyNotWin11 a superior choice over PC Health Check. At least, for the purpose of finding out why a machine will (or won’t) upgrade to Windows 11. PC Health Check does offer other capabilities that users may find helpful, including (questionable) info about backup and synchronization, Windows Update checks, storage capacity consumption and startup time. I’m not arguing against use of the tool, when it returns to circulation. I’m merely suggesting that for the purpose of evaluating PCs for Windows 11 upgrades, WhyNotWin11 does a better job at that specific task.

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Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

One minor befuddlement about the newly-refreshed update to the Microsoft Store has puzzled me. Since updating to Windows 11, and obtaining the latest Store version, I haven’t been able to find its Update mechanism. This morning, on a whim, I opened the Library left-column menu item. Voila! Now I know one obtains Windows 11 Store updates via Library buttons. You can see the previously-elusive “Get updates” button at the upper left of the lead-in graphic for this very story.

Push the Button, and Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

And indeed, pressing the “Get updates” button from the Library controls behaves pretty much the same way as in Windows 10. The button goes dim, the busy circle icon circulates for a while, and if any updates are pending a list appears and begins to take care of itself.

I wish I could show you a picture of that update process. But only one of my test machines needed an update. It was for the commercial version of Lenovo Vantage (the ThinkPad update utility). Thing is, it flew by so quickly I didn’t have time to grab a screencap. That said, it does show up in Reliability Monitor as an Informational event. So here’s a screencap that shows it installed at 9:02 AM on July 3.

Windows 11 Store Updates via Library.update-relimon

There it is: Non-highlighted (second) item with LenovoSettings in the name string.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As the old saying goes, I KNEW it had to be in there somewhere. A little poking around and I did eventually find it. My only question now is why did Microsoft decide to call this the “Library?” My guess: because it points to the repository of apps on the host PC where the Microsoft Store is currently running. The Help button is surprisingly mum on Store UI details and related info, so I guess I did what we’re all supposed to do. I figured it out for myself. Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too…

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