Category Archives: Cool Tools

Inspecting Travel Cable Bag Contents

OK then, we’re sending my son off to college where he will have both a portable laptop (going with him) and a more powerful desktop (shipped in advance). Inspecting travel cable bag contents to take inventory, I find the following items:

  • 2 2.4 Amp iclever dual USB port wall chargers
  • 2 USB-A to lightning cables, 10 ft
  • 1 USB-A to lightning cable, 2 ft
  • 1 USB-A to USB-C cable, 2 ft
  • 1 USB-C to USB-C cable, 2ft (for next item)
  • Sabrent USB-C NVMe drive enclosure PCIe x.3
  • 1 RJ-45 Cat6e network cable, 6 ft

The whole thing weighs in at 795g (1 lb 12 oz). It fits nicely in the front pouch of my soft-sided Targus computer briefcase when we go on the road. I bought a duplicate for the boy to take with him to school.

After Inspecting Travel Cable Bag Contents…

We’re usually charging stuff — phones, mostly — until we go out the door, so the cable bag is one of the last items to go into my briefcase. Please note: the image serving as the lead-in graphic obviously belongs to an Apple-head. While we do all have iPhones (and thus, lightning cables) the rest of our stuff is Windows centric. So the picture doesn’t show the local story. I just grabbed it from Amazon for eye-candy.

This time out, the travel briefcase will start out with 3 laptops: my work unit, another for other family members, and the laptop for school use. Those items are, respectively:

  • A Lenovo X1 Extreme, i7 32 GB RAM, 1.5 TB across 2 SSDs
  • A Lenovo Yoga 7i 14″, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD
  • A Lenovo X390 Yoga, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD

It will probably make the TSA guys wonder why we need 3 laptops when we transit the x-ray machine tomorrow. It is what it is, and I’ll just have to tote the weight until we can do a little lightening when the boy heads off to his dorm on Sunday. Please: wish us all luck! Some of us may need it more than others, but you can never have too much…


Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

For the past couple of years I’ve been learning — and using — the Microsoft package manager, Winget, It helps me keep my PC apps updated. Just recently, I’ve learned to exploit Winget include unknown syntax to broaden its coverage. Basically, this will “upgrade packages even if their current version cannot be determined.” That quote comes from the upgrade command section of the MS Winget documentation.

How to Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

First, that syntax couldn’t be simpler: just add the string
to the usual invocation for winget . For the record that’s
winget upgrade --all
. This tells the program to apply upgrades for all packages with known versions. You can see this at work in the lead-in graphic for this story, in fact. Chrome shows up when unknowns are included, but not otherwise. (Compare top and bottom sections, or view the image full sized by clicking the following thumbnail.)

Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax
Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

The difference between the unadorned “all” version of Winget upgrade and the one with unknowns included applies in large part to applications like Kindle, Chrome, Firefox, and more, which apparently do not report their current version numbers either consistently or well to Winget during its initial survey phase.

This addition to the command finds those things and attempts to upgrade them. Certain apps — most notably Teams — will not work with this tool because of version mismatches (and the prudent decision not to overwrite versions outside the same version tree). But this does improve its overall coverage. That lowers the number of apps and applications I must update manually. To me — and to you, too, I bet — that’s a good thing!

Note: Winget works in PowerShell with equal facility for both Windows 10 and Windows 11. It’s become one of my go-to tools for keeping my small fleet of PCs (currently numbered 12, with 2 going off to college with my son soon) up to date.


Build 25179 Gives Everybody Tabbed Explorer

It’s been a long time coming. The gradual release of tabs in File Explorer is now a Dev Channel feature. That’s right: Build 25179 gives everybody tabbed Explorer. I’ve had it come and go somewhat randomly over the whole summer. But now, it looks like it’s here to stay, as shown in the lead-in graphic above. Good-oh!

When Build 25179 Gives Everybody Tabbed Explorer …

… Then, everybody can make use of the feature. Personally I find it much easier to navigate around a bunch of tabs in a single Explorer window, than to jump across a bunch of disjoint Explorer windows. But that’s just me — others may feel differently.

That does explain, however, why I welcome the general release of this long-awaited Windows feature. For me, Explorer is one of the Windows applications I use most frequently. That means even a slight productivity improvement offers big dividends. And with dozens of daily uses (I almost always have one or more File Explorer windows open on my desktop) that’s a big win.

Two Explorer Windows Still Have Their Uses

When I have to compare or move files between directories, I can still make use of multiple Explorer windows at the same time. It’s a handy way to see what’s going on in two file system locations at once. Be that to move files from one location to another, or to compare files across those locations, it’s still a handy technique.

But when I want to scope out the contents of multiple file system locations, I think I prefer tabs for that purpose. As I said earlier, I’m convinced it’s easier to click tabs in a single window for that purpose. Jumping among multiple windows just isn’t as workable or attractive IMO.

You are, of course, free to form your own opinions and habits where File Explorer is concerned. But it’s always nice to have options, right?


Build 25169 Gains Spotlight Background

Windows Spotlight is a gorgeous collection of nearly 2K images that MS brings to OS users. It appears by default in the hidden local app data folder associated with your login account (see below for a full path spec). Thus, it’s always available to those who know where to find it. But, starting right now, Dev Channel Build 25169 gains Spotlight background option in Settings → Personalization → Themes. It also shows up at the top of the Personalization pane, as shown in the lead-in graphic above. It’s boxed in red at the upper right corner of the six theme tabs showing there. Its mouseover text reads “Windows Spotlight, rotating background images.”

When Build 25169 Gains Spotlight Background Variety Folllows

The range and coverage of the Spotlight collection includes reams of nature photography, plus all kinds of other arresting images of great visual interest. Thus, the collection is worth exploring just to see and appreciate what’s there.

Find it at the following path specification (broken across multiple lines for readability: if you cut’n’paste to navigate there, you may need to paste it back together first):


Please note: you’ll need to replace the place holder in the preceding string shown as <Account-name>. Use the label associated with your current logged-in account. In my case that’s “etitt” (a truncation of “etittel”). YMMV.

I Win at the Gradual Rollout Game, for Once!

Though the 25169 announcement is mum on this topic, 3rd-party reports on the Spotlight background option indicate that it’s another gradual rollout from MS. That means some Dev Channel users will see it on their desktops, while others won’t. To my astonishment and delight it showed up on my Dev Channel test PCs.

For once, I seem to have been included in the first wave of lucky participants. Good-oh!


Build 25158 Camera App Reworked

The latest Dev Channel build includes a new iteration of the venerable Camera app. Indeed, in Build25158 Camera app reworked includes a brand-new, much sparser interface with simplified controls. No settings at all, in fact, as far as I can tell.

If Build 25158 Camera App Reworked, Then What?

Contrast that look and feel from the lead-in image with the Windows 10 version (from higher up in the same baker’s rack in my office). Settings are shown this time at left in the following screencap.

Build 25158 Camera App Reworked.win10-compare

Am I wrong to see the lack of more detailed controls as a loss of capability? [Click image for full-sized view.]

Indeed, most image manipulation is a post-processing task. But I occasionally found it useful to use some of the various controls that the old Camera app made available but which — as far as I can tell — the new Camera app does not. Particularly, the framing grid for image selection and layout help, and the photo quality and aspect ratio controls. To me, this turns the new camera into a more limited, image grab only, kind of function. It’s OK, but it’s not as flexible as the older version.

Running Against the Grain

This is kind of interesting, because most of the new-version or reworked apps showing up in Windows 11 include added functionality and capability, rather than a reduction in same. Favorite example: the sometimes elusive tab feature in File Explorer. Although it has turned into something of a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t phenom in recent Dev and Beta Channel builds, I do like it and think it represents a useful (if not long overdue) extension to what that tool can do.

The camera changed are described in a a July 13 Windows Blog. It does apparently gain improved QR and barcode scanning. The biggest accolade reads “match the beautiful new look and feel of Windows 11.” It says nothing about the banishment of Settings and related controls. Go figure!


Choose Reflect Backup Drives Carefully

I’m a HUGE fan of Macrium Reflect. Available in both free and for-a-fee forms, I’m convinced it’s the best Windows image backup tool available today. Disclosure: I run both free and fee-based versions, and own a Home 4-Pack license that I upgrade as new versions are released. I was reminded to choose Reflect backup drives carefully yesterday, when I targeted an older USB 3 drive with mSATA SSD devices under its hood. Let me explain…

Why Say: Choose Reflect Backup Drives Carefully?

Because the read and write speeds of the underlying device and the speed of the channel (USB 3.1 in my case here) matter. In fact, they strongly affect the time it takes to complete a whole-image backup. In targeting an mSATA device that backup took nearly 40 minutes to complete.

I’m making the same backup right now, and targeting a PCIe x3 NVMe SSD in a Sabrent USB-C enclosure right now. As you can see from the lead-in graphic, Macrium Reflect currently guesstimates it will take 19 minutes to complete. That’s just over 50% faster than the mSATA number, or about 20 minutes overall.

If such a task is running in the background, and can complete whenever it’s done, that doesn’t matter much. But if, as in my case, I was waiting on completion to do something else, it matters a lot.

And There’s More…

While watching the NVMe and mSATA image backups proceed, I noticed another difference. The transfer rate for the two backups not only differed but so did their variability. The NVMe device kept getting faster as it proceeded. It ranged from a low of 1.1 Gbps to a high of 1.8 Gbps. The mSATA device started out at around 600 Mbps, It dropped as low as 220 Mbps, and as high as 1.0 Gbps during the course of the backup process.

Upon completion, Reflect also shared other stats worth noting. The overall read rate for the mSATA device was reported at 1.6 Gbps, while its write rate came in at a less stellar 550 Mbps. On the NVMe device, the overall read rate was 6.6 Gbps, and the write rate 1.9 Gbps. That’s a BIG difference, and explains the title for this story. Yes, these numbers appear inflated because they take compression into account. But those are the numbers that Reflect reports, and they do underscore the importance of device read/write speeds.

Note: Actual time for the NVMe backup was 19:31, while actual time for the mSATA backup was 39:52.


Windows Terminal PowerShell Selection

I have to laugh. Yesterday, I noticed version 5 of PowerShell  running inside Windows Terminal. So I naturally wondered: “How do I upgrade this?” Turns out, in fact, that no upgrade is needed. It all comes down to the current Windows Terminal PowerShell selection. I’ll explain shortly, but first: look at the window in the lead-in graphic.

Managing Windows Terminal PowerShell Selection

By default, version… appears when you open Windows Terminal. But it’s easy to get to a newer PowerShell version. No upgrading is necessary: you need only know how to do this. If you click on the down-caret at the far right of the title bar, a menu appears, like this:

Windows Terminal PowerShell Selection.choose shell

The down-caret menu lets you choose among shells you can run in a Windows Terminal tab. [Click image for full-sized view.]

The trick — if you can call it that — is to choose the right version of PowerShell (and corresponding default) to run. The top item in the menu corresponds to version The fourth item down brings up the latest 7.x PowerShell version (specifically, 7.2.5). If you click Settings, you can also choose this version as the “Default Profile” which makes the new version (rather than the version) appear whenever you open Windows Terminal, or click the “Plus” sign to open a new default Terminal tab.

As with many other things in Windows World, foreknowledge and understanding are key to doing things right. In my case, I had no need to update PowerShell. I only needed to pick the right version to run inside Windows Terminal. Now I know how. If you didn’t know how already, this should make things equally simple for you. Cheers!


Change Dev Channel Task Manager Default View

Here’s a nice little addition that’s popped up in the Dev Channel version of Task Manager. If you visit its Settings page, you will see a “Default Start Page” pull-down menu there. This makes it easy to change Dev Channel Task Manager default view. My preference is Details, as shown here:

Change Dev Channel Task Manager Default View.details

Because it’s my go-to view, I set “Details” as the default in Task Manager.

Why Change Dev Channel Task Manager Default View?

For convenience, mostly. It’s not a huge deal in terms of added functionality. But anything that saves a mouse click is helpful, when it comes to getting down to work, eh? In general, MS seems to be moving to a move open, less cluttered layout for Task Manager in the Dev Channel version. It takes a little getting used to, but I like it.

My eyeballs are still better trained to make sense of the old-fashioned Task Manager that’s still visible in Windows 10 and other Windows 11 versions (for me that mostly means production version, Build 22000.778). The contrasting yellow shades for data cells are still more recognizable to me.

But, as with all things Windows, changes spur us on to learn and appreciate new things. That’s how I’m going to play the evolution of Task Manager. We’ll probably have side-by-side versions for Windows 10 and 11 for some time anyway, what with Windows 10 EOL not until October 2025.

But Wait, There’s More…

Turns out you can change the default tab for older Task Manager versions, too. The menu fiddling is a bit different though, as shown in the next screencap:

A different sequence of menu picks changes the default view in old Task Manager iterations.

As you can see in the preceding screenshot, click Options → Set default tab → and then any of the items shown (Processes, Performance, App history, Startup, Users, Details, Services) to make your selection. Good stuff!

[Note] Here’s a shout-out to Mauro Huculak at Windows Central, whose July 8 story clued me into this new wrinkle on an old favorite Windows tool. Thanks, Mauro!


More WingetUI Interactions

OK, then. I’m using WingetUI as an element of my Windows PC update toolbox. Along the way, I’m finding some areas where it shines, and others where it doesn’t. But as I gain familiarity with this tool, more WingetUI interactions convince me it’s worth using. That said, it’s no silver bullet for Windows updates, either. Let me explain…

After More WingetUI Interactions, Another Status Report

If you look at the lead-in graphic, I can point to elements where WingetUI shines, and those where it doesn’t. It handles most third-party apps perfectly (e.g. 7-Zip, Kindle, SUMo, Python 2, and Spacedesk). Not so for MS components, except for C++ runtime elements. It failed (or I didn’t try based on prior failures) with Edge WebView2, Teams, and the WADK. This is not a huge problem for me.

SUMo also catches the follow items that did not show up on the WingetUI radar: Chrome, Firefox, CrystalDiskInfo, Intel PROSet utility, MyLANViewer, Nitro Pro, Notepad++ (a false positive, IMHO), Snagit and Winaero Tweaker. Thus I must continue to use a collection of tools to get through my entire update roster. But I knew that already.

All’s Well That Ends Well

I was able to use PatchMyPC to handle the routine updates that WingetUI didn’t see. SUMo led me to fix everything except Intel PROSet, Nitro Pro, and Snagit. I got the first and last myself, and skipped Nitro Pro for the moment (though I did find install syntax for the latest version using winget itself, which I’ll try again later…).

[Note added 1 Day later…] Eventually, I jumped to the Nitro Pro download page (Product Updates) to grab and install the latest version ( That got me completely caught up. What I now can’t understand is why winget will sometimes update Nitro Pro for me, but why I must do it manually at other times. I’m guessing it depends on package prep and info…



25145 Gets File Explorer Tabs

OK, then. It’s been a gradual roll-out, so I can’t know if everyone running Dev Channel can see this. But once I got it running, Build 25145 gets File Explorer tabs on both of my test PCs. It’s pretty cool, too, as I hope to show in the ensuing discussion.

To get this party started, you can see File Explorer in the lead-in graphic. It’s got the default tab (“Home”) open at left, the UUPdump folder from my D: drive open at right. The latter shows the various files left over after an .ISO file is created (~4GB item, 6th from top).

When 25145 Gets File Explorer Tabs, Then What?

Why, you mess around with them to see what they can do. So far I’ve discovered multiple techniques to open such tabs, including:

  1. Click the Plus sign (“+”) to the right of the rightmost open tab, and an open tab set to the default appears. Navigate anywhere you want from there.
  2. Right-click a folder inside the main File Explorer pane, and a new option labeled “Open in new tab” appears. I *like* this one! Here’s what it looks like (annotated for easy recognition).

3. I remember reading about a keyboard shortcut to open such a tab, but I can’t find the reference. Winkey+E still opens a new File Explorer window, and WinKey+T doesn’t do anything. I’ll keep poking about on this front, and see what I can learn. So far, the best third-party coverage of the feature I’ve found is at WindowsLatest.

This is a cool and helpful new feature. As I learn (and find out) more about it, I’ll either update this post, or write a new one. Stay tuned!