Windows 10 Virtual Desktop

Like the Mad Hatter in Wonderland, Microsoft now has a built-in way of moving down for clean cups.   If you have even been in the middle of a project with windows open everywhere and suddenly needed to switch to something else but still needed all those lovely windows you will appreciate virtual desktops. They allow you to just switch to a completely clean desktop and start fresh. With the ability to switch back to the cluttered one you were so diligently working on.

Windows 10 taskbar snipitThere is a little symbol at the bottom of your screen that looks like a rectangle with a square on top of it. It sits next to the search window. If you click on this your screen will be put into a window and you will see two (more if you are already using this) miniature desktop screens on the bottom. One will be the cluttered one and the other a clean one. If you click on the clean one, then you will get a clean desktop that you can immediately start cluttering again. You can use this again to switch back to your original one. You will also see off to the right bottom a “+” button that will allow you to add more desktops as many as you desire.

While on this screen you can also drag an open program to any of the desktops you wish. This allows you to even organize all that extra clutter.

And for even quicker access there are keyboard shortcuts that allow you to move and switch without using the (dor)mouse.

Keyboard shortcuts for using Virtual Desktop in Windows 10:

  • WIN + CTRL + LEFT/RIGHT: Switch to previous or next desktop
  • WIN + CTRL + D: Create a new desktop
  • WIN + CTRL + F4: Close the current desktop
  • WIN + TAB: Launch task view

Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz vs 5Ghz

Why does this affect me?  For two reasons.  First most every device out there is using the 2.4Ghz band for Wi-Fi and some devices such as cordless phones and microwaves (yes the one in your kitchen.) use this frequency.   Second you have routers that transmit on both and devices that also transmit on both.

The first problem is that there are only 12-14 channels available to the 2.4Ghz band width and if you use an app to tell you whom is using what channel next to you, you will likely see a plethora of devices on every channel.  In my experience there are usually 5-7 channels that are overwhelmed since most people let their routers auto decide which channels to use.  There are apps out there that will show you which channels are used and you can pick one for your router that, over time, is used the least.

The second problem is something that doesn’t get addressed that often is devices and routers that can offer both bands (2.4 and 5Ghz).    If you set it up correctly this is not an issue.  But by trying to over-simplify your Wi-Fi you can create your own problem.   If both the router and device (laptop, phone, tablet…) are setup to use both then setup auto connects to both on the device the device is likely to flip flop between the two bands and will result looking like a very unstable internet connection.     Since most newer routers and devices do support both this can be very frustrating.   The simplest way around this is to forget or unsubscribe to one of the two bands.

The pros to using 2.4Ghz are its high availability and ability to go longer distances through walls and other barriers.  

The cons to using 2.4Ghz are so many things that occupy that bandwidth.

The pros to using 5Ghz are less devices clogging the airwaves and better performance and the fact that both 802.11a and 802.11b cannot use it.  See my earlier article about this.

The cons to using 5Ghz are that it doesn’t go through walls and other barriers as easily as 2.4Ghz and therefore range may be a limiting factor.  Also even though it is listed as a pro the fact that 802.11a and 802.11b cannot connect to it may mean that you lose some of your older devices.

End of Free Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft has announced that it will be ending it’s Free upgrade to Windows 10 program as of July 29 this year.   This is no surprise since Microsoft originally announced that It will only last a year.  Times up folks!  It’s either upgrade now or pay for the upgrade after the 29th of July.  So if you have been hesitating do it now.

The good news, for all of you who don’t want to upgrade, Microsoft will phase out the annoying upgrade pop-up after July 29th as well.  It may take a month or two but Microsoft will finally stop nagging you.

As seen on InfoWorld.

As seen on PCWorld.

As seen on the Verge.

 

Why is my Wi-Fi slow?

One possibility that is not always thought of for your Wi-Fi to being slower than is should be.

Wi-Fi comes in a variety of flavors. There is a, b, g, n and the new ac when buying adaptors or routers for their Wi-Fi. But do you know what they are and what you need to know about them to help your own system? The most significant differences between all these standards is the speed. There are other differences but for the purpose of this article we will focus on speed. The following is the speed ranges for each standard:

• 802.11a – 11mbs with a fallback to 5.5, 2 or even 1mbs
• 802.11b – 11mbs
• 802.11g – 54mbs
• 802.11n – 100mbs with up to 250mbs with special configuration
• 802.11ac – 433mbs up to 1.3gbs with three antenna configurations

Obviously you would want the highest speed you can get but you may not be actually getting it even if you own it. Why wouldn’t you get 433mbs out of your brand new 802.11ac router? Well the first and most obvious reason is that your computer doesn’t have an adaptor that supports it. Both the router and your computer must be able to support the ac standard before you can realize the speed difference.

The other reason may not seem so simple. That is because it doesn’t have anything to do with your relationship between your computer and the router but the relationship between the router and all the other devices around it. If you have an 802.11n router and there is a printer attached to it that can only communicate in 802.11b then the router will be adjusting to the 11mbs b standard and, therefore, force the communications between your computer and itself to comply with b standards of 11mbs. Oh, and it gets worse. If there is a neighbor that doesn’t even connect to your Wi-Fi but is within range and they use 802.11b devices, then the same thing will happen since the devices will communicate even if it is only verifying that the other exists. This happens all the time over Wi-Fi. Routers are inherently programmed to cater to the least common denominator they need to keep compatibility between everything.

Ok, this sucks. But what can be done? Most routers have the ability to fine tune to just one or two of these standards. So you could set your router to only work with g and n networks, for instance, so that your minimum only goes as low as 54mbs. Your only problem with that are devices like your printer that only works on 802.11b. You need to make sure that you only exclude up to your lowest common denominator. (Honestly, what are you still doing with a printer that old anyway?) You can also upgrade your devices to more modern standards before you do this as well. That way if everything was running 802.11n then you can get those fantastic speeds you paid for just by setting your router to only use n.

Windows XP and DNS

DNS or Directory Name Service is how your browser finds a website from a name.  For example when you type in csispecialist.com your browser looks it up on a DNS server and gets the correct address and then opens the page for you using that address.   It would be like asking where the local pub is and someone telling you it is on 712 Main Street so you can then can go to that specific address.

Most DNS servers today update their information every 2 hours and sometimes even less.  However when XP was around the servers only updated every 24 hours or more.  If you are still running XP you can change this value with a registry edit.  This edit works on newer systems as well but most current operating systems take the shorter time into account.

The registry edit is as follows:

Under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Services\Dnscache\Parameters
Add the DWORD value: MaxCacheTtl

then set the value (in decimal) to:  7200

That sets it to expire entries that are 2 hours or older.


Another thing that DNS does is cache negative entries.  These are simply entries that did not resolve to a legitimate address.   If you use multiple DNS providers or are checking to see when a site comes up after setting it’s DNS this could also be useful.  To do this there is another registry setting you can put in.

 

The registry edit is as follows:

Under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Services\Dnscache\Parameters
Add the DWORD value: MaxNegativeCacheTtl

then set the value (in decimal) to:  0

This will tell XP to stop caching stuff that’s not there.

After you have applied either or both of these registry settings you can reset the DNS cache on your computer by opening the command prompt and typing the following:

ipconfig /flushdns

Your computer should return:

“Windows IP Configuration

Successfully flushed the DNS Resolver Cache.”

Hibernate

If you are running a desktop computer you probably never put it into a hibernate mode.  Sleep is usually good enough since it does not have a battery to drain and computers wake up from sleep faster.

There is a file that is created on your computer made for hibernation that will completely save your desktop state called hiberfil.sys.    This file is hidden and on the root directory of your hard disk.   It contains everything you need to wake up from sleep.  However this file is not necessary if you never hibernate your computer and most desktops do not need hibernate mode.

Microsoft has more information on this as well as the means of turning if off and on.  It is on their website under Knowledge Base Article 920730.  Or if you want to just do it your self you can open the command prompt in administrator mode and type the following command:

powercfg -h off

If you want to turn it back on for any reason just use the same command with the word “on” instead of “off”.

Security Alert for Windows

If you have Quicktime for Windows installed now is a good time to un-install it.  Apple has discontinued support for the Windows version of Quicktime and will not be issuing updated for security patches for current or future security problems.

Homeland Security has issued a warning about this as well.  You can read the article here.

Enable the F8 restore key at boot in Windows 10.

Sometimes we have a need to fix something we broke and the only way of doing that is to roll back to a previous version.  Up to Windows 10 you were able to press the F8 key while the operating system was just starting up and then choose restore to last known good configuration or even pick a previous date to restore from.   In Windows 10, however, they have elected to disable this feature in favor of a faster boot time.   While a faster boot is usually more desirable there is also something to be said about being able to restore in case you mess up.

If you wish to restore the F8 while booting, you can just use a simple command.   Don’t worry this command can be reversed.   If your system hangs before you do this, you will need to get a Windows 10 boot disk to repair the error.

You want to go to a command prompt with administrator rights first.  Use the search and type cmd, right click on command prompt and select “run as administrator”.   Once in the command prompt use the command:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

you should see “The operation completed successfully.”  And that is all there is to it.  If you wish to undo this, then open the command prompt as administrator and use the command:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

 

 

Clear the Windows Paging File at Shutdown

First off, why is this important?   The paging file is a cache of information that is offloaded from your system when it needs to move stuff around.  This can be both programs and data.  The important part here is that it can be data.  Normally you don’t need to worry about this and as you turn off and on your computer it automatically handles all of this information.   The paging file has been tweaked and modified over the years and functions very efficiently with all the Windows defaults.   The one problem that it can cause is for people who deal with sensitive information.  While the defaults work great it still retains information when you shut down your computer.   So if your information requires you to do things like clearing cache and history then you are missing something if you do not also clear the paging file.

This fix will help with security but, as with anything like this, the drawback is that it slows down the shutdown process.  This is due to the fact that it needs to perform the clearing of the paging file before it shuts down.

If you want the quick fix you can go to Microsofts Fix It.  Or, if you are a do it yourselfer, here is the registry edit:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\

ClearPageFileAtShutdown = 1

If the ClearPageFileAtShutdown does not exist create it using DWORD 32Bit).

If you want to set it not to clear the paging file, then you can just change the value to 0.

Flash Player

Most people don’t know it but Adobe does have some settings you can change for Flash.  If you like to tinker with settings you can do so here.  There are some security settings that may be useful in keeping tracking or malware away.   Basically you can set rights to sites globally and also white-list some sites that you like (and trust).

It is done through a web page at: Flash Player Control Panel

The setting pages looks like a graphic but it actually works. As always be careful when changing any settings.