Category Archives: Windows 10

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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21H2 Preview Experiences After Two Weeks

I’ve got one lone test machine running the “other path” for older Windows hardware — namely the 21H2 Feature Update released on 7/16/2021. Here, I recite my 21H2 Preview Experiences after two weeks. While I’ve not encountered any show-stoppers, the Reliability Monitor report that appears above says it all. As is not untypical for new release forks, this one’s got some minor gotchas.

Summarizing 21H2 Preview Experiences After Two Weeks

I’ll start with a list of all errors reported in the foregoing Reliability Monitor screencap.

Date Source Summary
16-Jul Windows Hardware error
17-Jul Windows Update Medic Service Stopped working
Search application Stopped working and was closed
Search application Stopped working
18-Jul Windows Desktop Gadgets Stopped working
21-Jul PWA Identity Proxy Host Stopped responding and was closed
Windows Desktop Gadgets Stopped working

Upon examination, the error sources mostly originate from Windows itself. Only Windows Desktop Gadgets (which occurs twice) is a third-party app. The rest of the stuff is OS components, hardware, or built-in Windows apps.

IMHO, this kind of behavior is typical for a new release fork. It indicates a shakeout from current preview status on the way to something more stable. It’s only July and the release probably won’t happen until October, so there’s still plenty of time to get things right. If what I’m seeing right now is any indication, what needs fixing is mostly minor stuff.

I would say this augurs well for those who plan to upgrade to 21H2 on production PCs. If your PCs won’t meet Windows 11 upgrade requirements, they should be able to run Windows 10 until EOL in October 2025 without too much fuss or bother. Good stuff!

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Next LTSC Is 21H2 Based: Windows 11 Follows Later

In a July 15 Windows Experience Blog post, MS VP John Cable writes that in “the second half of 2021” the next version of the Windows LTSC will hit. Here’s a quote: “…we will also launch the next version of the Windows 10 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) based on version 21H2 at the same time.” A recent “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session said a “next LTSC” after that would use Windows 11. Hence my assertion: the next LTSC is 21H2 based, Windows 11 follows later.

Next LTSC is 21H2 based Windows 11 Follows Later. How long?

Good question. Take a look at a list of LTSC Windows 10 releases. I include my guess for the upcoming one:

1. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2015 1507   07/29/2015
2. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2016 1607   08/02/2016
3. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019  1809   11/13/2018
4. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021  21H1   11/??/2021

The gaps vary. It starts with just over a year (1 → 2). The next is over 2 years (2 → 3). That latest goes up to around 3 years (3 → 4). Recent history argues it will likely hit in two or three years. A lot depends on features that Windows 11 offers and Windows 10 does not. Equally important: how much they matter for deployments likely to use the long-lived LTSC code base.

Why Use a Windows LTSC Release?

In its LTSC explainer in Microsoft Docs, MS works hard to distinguish LTSC from other release channels and to identify typical usage scenarios (italic text is quoted verbatim):

 Important

The Long-Term Servicing Channel is not intended for deployment on most or all the PCs in an organization. The LTSC edition of Windows 10 provides customers with access to a deployment option for their special-purpose devices and environments. These devices typically perform a single important task and don’t need feature updates as frequently as other devices in the organization. These devices are also typically not heavily dependent on support from external apps and tools. Since the feature set for LTSC does not change for the lifetime of the release, over time there might be some external tools that do not continue to provide legacy support. See LTSC: What is it, and when it should be used.

The latter document calls out a “key requirement … that functionality and features don’t change over time.” These include medical systems like those used in MRI and CAT scan devices, industrial process controllers, and air traffic control systems. All such systems are costly, complex, and relatively isolated from public networks.

My gut feel is a long wait doesn’t matter that much for LTSC deployments. Because they’re so specialized and focused. engineers will build around whatever’s available when they put LTSC to work. When it gets used, the Windows OS isn’t really important: the function and capabilities of the overall system in which LTSC is embedded is what really matters.

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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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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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X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look

OK, I admit it. I’ve been sitting on this machine for a couple of weeks, buried in a mountain of other work. Ordinarily, I write my first look piece a day or two after a review unit shows up. Thus, my X1 Yoga Gen6 first look really includes a second and third look as well. And I must say, Lenovo has succeeded in injecting new oomph and vitality into a series of PCs that I’ve owned from them as far back as 2012. To be more specific, I’m talking about the latest iteration in the series: the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6.

Taking the X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look

Once I’d finished reviewing the ThinkPad X12 detachable tablet, I contacted the reviews team at Lenovo to request a loaner of this splendid little laptop. What they sent in response far exceeded my expectations. Here’s what this “Storm Grey” brushed aluminum laptop includes:

  • CPU: 11th Generation i7-1185G7 (4 cores/8 threads) 3.0 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB LPDDR4X 4266 MHz RAM (soldered)
  • Graphics: Intel Xe Graphics Rev2
  • Storage: Hynix PCIe x4 NVMe SSD 512GB
  • Monitor: 3840×2400 Flex View Display (touch-enabled)
  • Ports: 2xThunderbolt 4 USB-C, 2xUSB-A 3.2 Gen 1, HDMI 2.0, Garaged Pen/Stylus, Headphone/mic mini-RCA jack, Kensington lock slot
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 14.9mm x 313mm x 223mm x / 0.59″ x 12.32″ x 8.77″
  • Weight: Starts at 1.35kg (3 lbs: mine weighs 3 lbs 2 oz/1415g)

To my amazement, the current price for this unit as configured is ~US$3,800 (in round numbers, not including applicable sales or VAT taxes). This is a beast of a laptop, with an equally monstrous price.

What US$4K Buys You: Quite a Lot, Actually

The brushed aluminum deck and exterior are much more fingerprint resistant than my older X380 and X390 models in their standard Lenovo matte black finish. The construction is rigid and strong, with no real flex in either the keyboard or monitor decks of this 2-in-1 device. I found it easy and fun to use as a tablet with keyboard deck folded back behind. I found the keyboard just as usable and capable as most other modern Lenovo keyboards. For somebody who types for a living, that means a lot.

The speed of the RAM and NVMe SSD are pretty great, and the top-of-the-line i7 mobile CPU (1186G7) is likewise both powerful and capable. Right now, in fact, this laptop is the fastest PC at Chez Tittel and its 3840×2400 UHD panel the highest resolution display as well. In fact, I was amazed that the default scaling factor was 300%. That’s a good thing because I can’t see the text when it’s scaled 1:1 (100%). Touch is responsive, and the colors are vibrant and intense (500 nits, 90% DCI P3 color gamut).

The Thunderbolt ports come in really handy. In fact, they’re among the few Thunderbolt 4 capable input ports here at Chez Tittel. I’ve got several Thunderbolt 3 docks, which which the PC works splendidly, but so far I haven’t been able to stress test the high end of Thunderbolt/USB-C capabilities.

X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look.ssd-speeds

USB-C to the left with a Samsung 960 NVMe; Internal PCIe x4 Hynix NVMe to the right.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

So far, the internal NVMe CrystalDiskMark results (right-hand side of preceding graphic) are among the fastest I’ve seen here at Chez Tittel. The external NVMe is a Samsung 960 1 TB unit in a Sabrent USB-C SSD enclosure. Those results are also quite good. In fact, Macrium Reflect accomplished a complete C: image backup from the internal to the external drive in 2:46 with observed data rates of 1.7 to 2.0 GBps. On-disk size of the Macrium Reflect Image file (.mrimg) for that task is 22,821 KB (22.28 GB). That’s fast!

I Can See This Laptop as a Daily Driver

The target audience for this PC is business users. And in fact, I can see this device as a “daily driver.” If connected to  one or two external monitors, keyboard and mouse, plus extra storage through a Thunderbolt dock, I could use it as my everyday computing platform myself. The beauty of this approach is that one’s primary desktop turns into a traveling machine simply by disconnecting from the dock and heading out the door. I’d probably take my 1 TB USB-C attached external drive along, too for backup and recovery stuff on the road.

If you’re in the market for a high-end do-it-all machine, the X1 Yoga could be what you need. If you’re willing to plunk down the nearly US$4K it costs it can do the job. Then, if you’re willing to spend another US$1,500-2,000 to outfit it with additional accoutrement for in-office use it can serve as a primary computing platform. I’m thinking 2 27″ monitors (Dell UltraSharp 27 4K), decent keyboard and mouse (I like Microsoft’s offerings), and 2x5TB or larger external HDs attached via USB-C or USB A 3.1 or 3.2 would do it. And of course, this recently built PC meets all Windows 11 hardware requirements, so upgrading should be a breeze.

Highly recommended, for those who can afford it. My 2019 vintage X390 delivers about 75% of the performance for less than 35% of the price, though…

Check Your Prices, Dude!

After feedback from Lenovo arrived to the effect that “list prices aren’t best prices” — a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse — I did some shopping around online and found a Full HD version with touchscreen (all other components the same) for US$2409.07. The lower resolution screen also extends battery life, so may be a better choice anyway. In fact, Newegg has the same configuration for a mere US$1,689 (FHD touchscreen but all else the same). Perhaps my concerns for price are overstated? You bet! Should I have shopped around a bit before posting this story? Too right! Somewhat abashed, I strongly recommend the FHD version of this laptop as a “killer deal.” Sigh.

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Three-Quarters of PCs Sold Can’t Run Windows 11

Figure the number of PC sales based on Gartner’s Q1 projections against 2020, and total PC sales for 2021 could top 363 million. Take that into account along with data shown in the lead-graphic  from Statista. You’ll get an astonishing ratio: at least three-quarters of PCs sold can’t run Windows 11. To be absolutely clear, that means PCs sold between 2006 and 2021. Thus, I am assuming that PCs built in 2005 or earlier are unlikely to skew this estimate. And if they do, they will skew it away from Windows 11 anyway…

The breakdown is this: 3.62B billion PCs were sold between 2006 and 2017 (the last year CPUs too old to run Windows 11 were made). OTOH, 1.16B PCs were sold between 2018 through the end of 2021. To get that number, I’m generously allowing Gartner’s Q1’21 growth rate to persist all year. Do the resulting math, and just over 24 percent of PCs qualify for Windows 11, while nearly 76 percent of PCs don’t.

Hence: Three-Quarters of PCs Sold Can’t Run Windows 11

Microsoft currently claims 1.3 B active monthly users for Windows 10. I think that puts the size of the active global PC population lower than 4.8B units sold 2006-2021. I’m inclined to believe this means that the ratio could be more in Windows 11’s favor than my sales-based analysis indicates. Even so, it’s indisputable that three-quarters of PC’s sold since 2006 can’t run Windows 11. What’s in question is how many of the PCs sold from 2006 to 2014 or so remain in use.

I just gave my old Lenovo X220 Tablet (built in 2011 and purchased in 2012) away. That’s because it really didn’t run Windows 10 all that well any more (Insider Preview Dev Channel, that is). I cheerfully concede that for PCs in regular use, the ratio may be more like 50-50 when it comes to those that can, and can’t, run Windows 11. At my house, the actual ratio was 60-40 (can/can’t).

Still, that’s an evocative ratio. It indicates that many users must consider a hardware refresh plus an OS upgrade to get to Windows 11. I believe it applies across the board, too. And by that I mean among households and consumers, plus businesses and organizations at all scales.

This phenomenon should make watching PCs sales over the next year or two very interesting indeed. Microsoft will be watching, the OEMs will be watching, and I’ll be watching too. Stay tuned!

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