Windows 11: Do or Don’t?

Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 will be released next month. Windows 10 was declared to be “the last version of Windows”, nevertheless MS now has a new version number waiting in the wings.

Windows 11 is a free upgrade for people with a supported computer. However MS has excluded many slightly older but still-functional PCs from getting this upgrade. If your PC is less than two years old, it is likely able to receive the upgrade. But the requirements are quite specific. Ask me if you want to know if your PC will upgrade. The upgrade will be rolled out in stages over several months, so even if your PC is eligible it may not see the upgrade immediately.

What’s new?

The new features in 11 include a new Start Menu, new theme design, rounded corners, new icons, new sounds… It’s all Windows-dressing. Very few productivity-enhancing features are added, unless you count the ability to run Android apps, which is Microsoft’s way of adding features by leveraging another ecosystem entirely. And some useful features are taken away, like opening the task manager from the taskbar context menu (which has been obliterated) or moving the taskbar from the bottom of the display to one side, a very sensible choice on wide-screen monitors.

The 11th version of Windows has the feel of an upgrade for the sake of upgrades. You won’t miss out on any important or useful functionality if you choose to stay on 10 for a while. With the lack of real advancements, and the hardware restrictions, this could as easily just be the next feature upgrade of Windows 10. It’s hard to understand Microsoft’s rationale for a new version number other than as a bid to get some press and stay relevant.

Your options

Some with unsupported computers see the strict hardware requirements as a simple way to avoid the upgrade entirely, and stay on Windows 10. Windows 10 will be supported until mid-October 2025, so this is not necessarily a bad choice. You could get a few more years of use out of your existing PC and then get Windows 11 pre-installed on your new PC in 2025. (Don’t take this too far however, as an old PC will cost you money as well through lost productivity. If your PC is more than four years old, you should consider that a new business PC can pay for itself in as little as a year, not to mention improving your daily life with a more responsive system.)

Others see this upgrade as the right time to finally make the switch away from Microsoft altogether. There are businesses (including my own) that run only Linux or Mac OS. It’s a different world, with a different set of pros and cons, but some find it a more predictable and stable environment in which to work.

So, 10 or 11 or switch? I will be happy to discuss the ramifications of each choice with you, to help you make the best decision for your team. Just reply here!

Diagnosing Email: How to forward message headers

This is actually an article from my old site. But it is useful to point here when customers need me to analyze suspicious email messages.

When email goes wrong, one of the things your IT support may ask for is a copy of the full message headers. Headers are the audit trail of how the message was processed and the path it took to get from the sender to your inbox. Normally you don’t see most headers. The ones you do see are To:, From: and Date:, but there are many others contained in most email messages. Your IT support can use these headers to diagnose how the message was handled along the way.

Different mail clients handle forwarding headers in different ways. Here’s how to forward headers from some of the common client programs.

Outlook 2016

  1.  Start a new message.
  2. Select Attach Item from the toolbar.
  3. Select Outlook Item.
  4. Browse to the message you are inquiring about, and select it to attach it.
  5. Send the message.

Office 365 Outlook online

  1. Open the email message by double clicking it.
  2. Click on the ellipsis (the 3 dots) to the right of “Forward” to open a drop-down menu
  3. Click “View Message Details”.
  4. Select all the text (Click anywhere in the text and then press Ctrl-A) and copy it. 
  5. Close the header information window.
  6. Click on the forward icon of your message. 
  7. Paste the copied text at the beginning of the message. 
  8. Send the message.

New Business Phone Service

ComputAssist has launched a new service to help small businesses. Let me tell you about ComputAssist Business VoIP phone service.

It grew out of this pandemic we are in. As small businesses came under tremendous pressure from lost opportunities, I wondered how I could help them survive, and even stand out. With remote work and fewer people wearing more hats, flexible and fast communication seemed like a good place to start. A remarkably quick response can be the difference-maker that helps you get the attention of a potential customer.

So I built ComputAssist Business VoIP, using leading-edge phone technology that can work the way you need to work. When you can receive calls and voicemails on any device, anywhere you are, it changes how you think about business phone service. It’s not just a desk phone anymore! With VoIP you can use a desk phone, sure, and many still prefer it. But you can also use a software phone on your laptop or desktop computer, or an app on your tablet or smartphone. Receive calls wherever you are, just as if you were in the office!

Has your office outgrown its old phone system? Are you looking for more powerful features? Is cost a driver for you? How are you currently using your phone system? Is voicemail a big part of it, or do you handle most calls on demand? Do you have a mobile or remote work force?

Look into Business VoIP phone service from ComputAssist, then let’s talk about what you need to survive and thrive in the pandemic, and definitely beyond!

A Free Boost for Your Network Security

There is a way to enhance your network security just by changing a setting in your router or computer. Quad9, a non-profit DNS provider, offers filtered DNS as a free service. But first, let me explain what DNS is.

DNS = Domain Name System

DNS is the internet system that allows computers to locate each other. When you request a web site in your browser, your computer carries on a brief conversation behind the scenes. It takes the web address you’ve asked for, reduces it to just the domain name part, and then asks DNS for the network address of that domain. For example,

You: “Browser, show me https://www.computasssist.com/support!” (You make that demand by clicking a link, a bookmark, or typing the address into your browser.)
Computer: “Hey, DNS server, what’s the IP address of www.computassist.com?”
DNS server: “Computer, that address is 209.50.56.173!”
Computer: “209.50.56.173, show me your page at /support.”
You: The page appears on your screen.

Filter Me

That’s regular plain vanilla DNS. What filtered DNS does is check your request against lists of known bad sites. Quad9’s DNS filters out sites known to push malware attacks. So the above conversation would go like this:

You: “Browser, show me https://www.badsite.com/iamunaware!”
Computer: “Hey, DNS server, what’s the IP address of www.badsite.com?”
Quad9 DNS server: “Computer, that address is in my list of bad sites, so I am going to hand you a Domain Not Found result!”
Computer: “Hmm, that domain does not resolve, so I have to show the Site Not Found error.”
You: The Site Not Found page appears on your screen.
Computer: continues operating normally, having not been attacked by a malicious site.

Changing your DNS settings

The best place to set up Quad9 DNS is in your router. This protects every device on your network that uses auto-DNS configuration (probably all of them, unless you have manually altered network settings.) Every brand of router is different, so you will have to search for the steps to change your router. You are looking for the DHCP configuration, and within that, the DNS server IP addresses that are set there. Replace whatever is there with 9.9.9.9 to begin using Quad9 DNS. The next time your devices renew their network connection, they will be using Quad9.

If you don’t have the router admin password or are locked out of the router, Quad9 provides help on how to set your individual computer to use their servers. This will only protect the device on which you make this change, so change your router instead, if possible. But if not, the Quad9 setup page will walk you through the procedure for Mac and Windows.

Modern network security is layer-upon-layer of defensive strategies. I highly recommend DNS filtering as one of those layers. This one is free and easy, so why not add this layer to improve your security?