Windows 10: Issues with privacy… and also WiFi Sense

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Because it’s free and it’s such an improvement interface-wise over Windows 8, I really thought that a decision to update to Windows 10 would be a slam dunk once we can be sure it’s fully baked… until I heard about the privacy issues involved. Now I’m not so sure that I’d encourage people to update.

If you opt for the “Express settings” during initial setup, by default, Microsoft chooses the most intrusive privacy settings possible. In the setup window, “Express settings” appears as a big fat button. “Customize settings” is a small link on the other side of the window and can easily be missed.

If you choose Express settings, among other things, you will:

  • “Personalize your speech, typing, and inking input by sending contacts and calendar details, along with other associated input data to Microsoft”
  • “Send typing and inking data to Microsoft to improve the recognition and suggestion platform.”
  • “Let Windows and apps request your location, including location history, and send Microsoft and trusted partners some location data to improve location services.”
  • “Use page prediction to improve reading, speed up browsing, and make your overall experience better in Windows browsers. Your browsing data will be sent to Microsoft.”
There’s more; this is just some of it. Once you’ve gone through the initial setup, you should go to Settings – Privacy and go through 13 screens of privacy settings (plus visit a web page) to make sure everything’s as you like it.

If you want to know what Microsoft does with the information it collects, a handy-dandy 45 page privacy statement that they describe as “transparent” is offered. Among other things, that statement says:

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.”

Along with that, after reading the 45 pages, nobody seems to have a clue who Microsoft’s “trusted partners” are.

As Alec Meer from Rock, Paper, Shotgun states:

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes “real transparency.”

Certainly, there are benefits to sending certain types of data to the cloud. It’s great to back up your contacts and calendar. But at this point, the only option for doing this is to set up your computer account with your Microsoft ID. You can’t do it with a local account.

All digital assistants require an online “assist,” and Microsoft’s Cortana is no exception. However, we’re not assured that information collected by Cortana will remain private. In contrast, Apple’s Siri doesn’t “associate this information with your Apple ID, but rather with your device through a random identifier.… You can reset that identifier at any time by turning Siri and Dictation off and back on…”

If I’m reading privacy policies, I like to see words and phrases like “anonymous,” “not associated with your ID,” “non-persistent,” “encrypted,” “identifier resets,” etc. I’m seeing little to none of this with Windows 10.

I’m not likely to need Windows 10, so a lot of the privacy stuff doesn’t affect me. But its WiFi Sense feature potentially affects everyone, whether they use Windows or not.

When you log into a WiFi network on Windows 10, you’re asked if you’d like to share the network login credentials with all of your Outlook and Skype contacts. Optionally, you can also share them with your Facebook friends. This puts an encrypted key to your network on Microsoft’s servers. When any of these people are within range of your network, they can connect to it without a password. You’re not given the option of making this information available to a single person; you have to do it for entire groups.

Some of the abuse scenarios that are posted around the ’net are pretty far fetched, and in theory, there shouldn’t be a big safety issue involved because everything’s encrypted. But since I don’t have Windows 10 myself and haven’t shared my contacts with Microsoft, people using my network have to log in the old fashioned way.

At that point, they’ll be presented with the dialog asking them if they’d like to share my network with all of their contacts. They can say no, but some people say yes to everything. And even with the right intentions, it’s easy to hit the wrong button. We’ve all done that.

Not to worry. If you’ve decided to share a network and change your mind, Microsoft will clear it from its servers within several days.

The way to prevent your network from being shared is to add “_optout” to your network name. I don’t want to do that. I have a simple network name that looks good in a list of available networks, and it’d be easy to type if I decided to make my network non-discoverable.

For others, many will have no clue that WiFi Sense exists and won’t be aware that they might want to do something about it. Others might want to add “_optout” but won’t know how.

Here are some more links.

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.. and there is the main reason I moved over to Linux. Just like in the past, I refuse to become a product. I refuse to expose any private or sensitive data belonging either to myself or others, that I may store.

I also believe Apple is no different, only more devious. Just because a unique identifier is changed, this does not mean one cannot be tracked and traced. (Consider it just the same as a dynamic IP address, except unique may actually mean unique.)

There is a reason why these operating systems are becoming less and less expensive... or even free. It's got to be the biggest legal con out there and unfortunately, after more than 20 years, it is being bought by the masses.

You want a laugh? These have been simplified. The following email was sent out a month and a half ago. (Links removed.)

As part of our effort to improve your experience across our consumer services, we’re updating the Microsoft Services Agreement and the Microsoft Privacy Statement. We want to take this opportunity to notify you about these updates.

For all services except Skype, the Microsoft Services Agreement will now be between you and Microsoft Ireland Operations Limited. Skype users will continue to contract with Skype Software S.à.r.l, for free consumer software and services, and with Skype Communications S.à.r.l, for paid consumer services. The Microsoft Services Agreement will cover Microsoft’s consumer online services, such as Xbox Live, Bing, MSN, Skype, OneDrive, and Microsoft account. You can see the full list here. The Microsoft Privacy Statement also covers most of Microsoft’s consumer products and services.

Simplicity Simplicity – Many of our customers use more than one Microsoft service, and have agreed to many sets of terms and privacy policies. To make it easier to use multiple services, we’ve brought together these documents into a single agreement and a consolidated privacy statement that cover most of our consumer services.

Privacy Privacy – Our longstanding commitment to privacy has not changed. We remain committed to protecting your data, being clear about how we use it and putting you in control. For example, we do not use the contents of your email, chat, video calls, documents, photos or voicemail to target advertising to you. And as you’ll see when you read the Microsoft Privacy Statement, we offer a range of tools that enable you to make decisions about what data we collect. Additionally, we have launched a new privacy dashboard that makes it easier for you to make choices about how we use your data.

Transparency Transparency – We are using straightforward language so our terms of use and Microsoft Privacy Statement are easier to understand. In addition, we’ve put key privacy information all in one place, so that you no longer have to cross-reference several documents to understand the big picture. While this consolidation eliminates redundancies and simplifies the structure of the information, we continue to provide service-specific details to allow you to make informed choices about how you use our services. We’ve also added some additional privacy information about new features and functionality we’ll soon roll out, like those you’ll see on Windows 10.

The updates will take effect on 1 August 2015. If you continue to use our services after 1 August 2015, you agree to the updated terms. If you do not agree, you can choose to discontinue use of the services and close your Microsoft account before 1 August. If you are an Xbox Live subscriber, you will be prompted soon to accept the terms when you log in to Xbox Live on your Xbox One, Xbox 360 or at If you are a parent or guardian, you are responsible for your child or teenager’s use of Microsoft services, including purchases.

Thank you for using Microsoft services.

You may note reference to "Microsoft Ireland Operations Limited". M$ is not the only one to be relocating where non-US user data is stored. Ireland has a longstanding reputation in this respect and makes it subject to the EU’s Data Protection Directive. This makes it harder for (let's be blunt about it) the US Government getting their hands on non-US Citizen personal data.

You want to talk Apple? They are following suit, spending €1.7 billion building data centres in Ireland and Denmark.

The issue may well be Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo or <insert name of any other software and/or service provider> but the bigger and common issue is Government pressure on these companies to provide them with User data.

Addendum: Windows users may be aware that the update service was used to install a program to nag them about Windows 10. This update can be uninstalled and then hidden, to prevent its reappearance. Search for KB3035583.

For what it is worth, I advise that if one has been sticking to Windows 7 that they stay where they are. If one is on Windows 8, they are probably as well upgrading to Windows 10 and optionally consider "down"grading to Windows 7.

However, much change is afoot in the Microsoft camp. XP Update webpages have disappeared. XP can still receive automatic updates (and there are other methods of receiving updates). MS Office Update webpages have disappeared. Older MS Office installations can still receive their updates via Windows Update BUT XP Office Users are out in the cold looking for their own updates as there is now no service for them.

Point: It is not going to be long before all Windows Users will have to have a MS account. This does not apply yet to Windows 7 but they may try to make it so. The account is what removes all doubt of identity and ties all activity to (currently) one device or set of devices.

The planned end of support for Windows 7 is currently January 14, 2020.

Interesting to see how the desktop OS market share is doing, though overall this is close to 40% of Internet users these days.

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I'm willing to give companies the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're not lying. There'd be all kinds of legal and public relations ramifications if we found out that what they were saying and doing were different.

Often, what companies do is substantiated by third parties. For instance, developers have told us that Apple's iAd doesn't give them the same amount of user information as other ad platforms. They've also confirmed that device IDs aren't available to them like they are on other platforms. And law enforcement agencies have whined about how difficult it is to get data from iOS devices.

Having said this, convoluted privacy policies are a good way to hide what you're doing. (Look at Yuku as an example.)

A problem I have with Microsoft is that they seem to be sending conflicting messages. On one hand, we've seen them support privacy-related issues. They get on board with the "right" causes, and we've seen cases where they've refused to release information. One case in particular included a refusal to release information to US law enforcement because the data were stored in Ireland. On the other side, we've seen anecdotal evidence that Microsoft has temporarily shut down user accounts for reasons that aren't apparent.

I don't have a problem with companies having certain kinds of information available in order to make their products function better. Obviously, your location data makes maps apps work better. It also enhances the experience in weather apps. But I want to be asked on an app by app basis if I want to share or grant access. iOS and OS X do that. It's also pretty easy to go back and look at my settings to check to make sure everything's as I like it. I'm not averse to sending crash data if I'm asked nicely… I've done that at times for both Apple and Firefox. But again, I want to be asked first.

If Microsoft did these things, I'd feel a lot better:

  • Make all accounts local and separate the cloud component. On the Mac, Apple puts iCloud in a system preference panel.
  • Because the settings in express setup are all privacy-related, get rid of it. Users need to see this information up front.
  • Clean up and consolidate the user interface for privacy settings, and for heavens sake, don't make people visit a web page to change something that applies to a device.
  • Get rid of advertising within Windows and Microsoft apps. Even Solitaire now serves ads. (Back in the olden days, Solitaire was my favorite Microsoft program. :))
  • Explain its privacy policies in a way that many can understand like like Apple does.
I think the attraction to Ireland is the tax situation. Here in the US, if companies make money outside its borders, it's very expensive to bring it back. Apple has been very outspoken about this. In their case, money that's made in the US stays in the US, but money made elsewhere stays in other countries. At this point, Ireland has been an attractive place to put it.

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I don't dispute these companies are telling the truth but that is completely different from being open and honest. I believe statements are made in order to lull people into a false sense of privacy and security.

I read the fact that these Organizations (Yahoo, DropBox and Google not included here) are spending a heck of a lot of money splitting and relocating Customer data to Ireland as they are trying their best.

I agree 100% with you that each app should ask and only store or transmit what you allow it to. Sadly though, the public Wi-Fi networks and cellphone operators enable fairly accurate location data to whoever has a legal right to know. As far as I know, most cellphone providers are forced to do this by whatever laws in whatever country.

There is always a risk storing any data pool that it could fall into the wrong hands. I think every Organization in question has been the subject of a hacking and as always a target.

One requires an Apple account to use an iDevice these days. Similarly, one requires a Google account to get any real sort of function out of an Android device. Interestingly, it was MicroSoft that were first trying this sort of thing all the way back to Windows 95 and they met resistance all the way until Windows 8. I find the fact that the majority of people are still using Windows 7 is quite revealing. It won't all relate to privacy issues but a percentage will.

There are two things I dislike about Windows 10 and they are both what I would consider civil liberties related. I do not want software tied to hardware. This is done in the name of security but I would argue that if hardware cannot modify software and software cannot modify hardware that this is much more secure. The second is the necessity for a M$ account. Other than that, Windows 10 and Edge might be quite OK. This is probably similar to what you are referring to as a "local account".

I'd be quite happy to see a button on a setup that says, "Do you want to sell your soul to MicroSoft, partners, foreign governments, and hackers for ever more?" Options: Yes/No. Yes is express setup and No is custom setup. No pages can be skipped on custom setup.

I do wonder what happens in the case of an upgrade though. People are much more inclined to press the "just do it" button on an upgrade.

Were you aware that MicroSoft was downloading parts of Windows 10 in advance without people knowing (unless they looked at their hard drives)? Bandwidth costs money and it is a bit off that M$ are using people's bandwidth when they may not even want to change to Windows 10.

Yes, again settings could and maybe should be device dependent rather than global. This would tie with you webpage settings comment. There is a subset of Internet Users that just won't visit a webpage. They want to use an app and either stay in that app or use another app. They seem to regard webpages as something malicious to be avoided.

You're kidding me? Ads in paid for applications? That is ridiculous! It all adds to the over-intrusiveness.

I could completely reword Tim Cook's statement on privacy to mean something completely different from how is sounds! LOL I do not dispute what is written there is 100% truthful.

Over 1.5M webpages suggest differently from the tax advantages. (first example)

Then there is Microsoft vs. DoJ.

It's really quite easy to see all sides but the "opt out" button has almost disappeared completely.

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There really shouldn’t be a need for an opt out button if its absence means that you’re opting in instead. :)

I think you can set up an iOS device without an Apple account, but if you want any apps, you'll need an account. Without an account, you might be able to get apps that come free with your device but aren't preloaded (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, for instance), but I'm only guessing on that. On the Mac end, OS updates happen through the App Store, but you can get them without an account.

You can actually use more than one Apple ID if you'd like. People used to do that to keep iTunes and iCloud separate… they'd use one ID to share items purchased through iTunes with the family. Each individual would have his/her own iCloud account for syncing, e-mail, etc. Separating iTunes purchases from iCloud access isn't necessary anymore as Apple allows users to share apps, music, movies, etc. with other IDs through its Family Sharing feature.

I didn't realize that Ireland had "the most relaxed privacy laws in Europe." That's kind of disturbing. I think Apple's in it for the tax advantage, though, because it's so easy to funnel money into Ireland vs. bringing it back to the States.

Isn’t your IP the only means of tracking you on typical home/business network? I know that my current home IP represents where I am pretty accurately. Previous home IPs were hit or miss.

My cellular IP tends to locate me in the next state. That’s actually a minor pain when I’m using Safari to find nearby businesses, especially when they're part of a chain. I need to include the city in a search. And once I’m on a business's site, I usually have to enter my postal code in the store finder to get to the one that’s relevant. If I don’t do those things, I get information pertaining to the other state.

But apps that ask for my location will use the location of the cell towers I’m using. iOS devices actually use a combination of WiFi and tower location. I don’t know how WiFi helps, but if WiFi is turned off, I get nagged with messages saying that I’ll be located more accurately if I enable it.

When Microsoft uses the term “local account,” they’re referring to the kind of account that we’ve been setting up in Windows, Linux, and OS X for years. Create a username and password on your computer, and you have an account. If you want another account, create another username and password.

It appears that with Windows 10, every license is basically OEM. Windows belongs to the computer rather than the individual. Windows 10 Enterprise is licensed the way it has been in the past: buy a bunch of licenses and install it on your company's computers.

I heard that Microsoft is distributing Windows in a peer to peer fashion, kind of like a torrent. I was actually going to whine about that in the lead and forgot. :) I really wouldn’t want anyone acquiring Windows from me. And I wouldn’t want to get Windows from anyone other than Microsoft; somehow that seems like an invitation to malware. I think there's a way to avoid that, but it's one of those opt out things that you have to find in your settings.

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Oh? That's an interesting change to licensing.

P2P makes a lot of sense for things like this. I would have no issue with it other than just knowing I was in control of my uploads. i.e. 1:1 ratio is fair but 1:2 and higher is unfair.

"Isn’t your IP the only means of tracking you on typical home/business network?"

Depends on your point of view. If you are a webmaster and you see an IP address visiting, that is all you have. Mostly, you will be geotargetted within 50 miles and almost certainly within 100 miles. This is not 100% though. By default a modern browser stores a location (but it usually asks initially) and this can be requested by the website. Your ISP knows your street address and the likelihood that you are at home. For that matter, your machine/device could be compromised and a street address and likelihood ascertained. Certain applications offer a tracking ID but that is not, as far as I know, geospecific. However the application may have been provided with your detail by you when obtaining it.

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Yeah, an ISP and cellular provider would have more information than the Webmaster or advertiser. I would think that those entities would be the go-to places for law enforcement. On Android devices, you need to be concerned about webmasters and advertisers getting the some of the same information that the ISP collects. We've heard that your call log can be shared, for instance. On Apple devices, that kind of stuff is unlikely. I don't know where Microsoft fits in at this point.

Firefox and Safari occasionally ask me if I'd like to share my location. That leads me to believe that they're not sending geolocation data if I don't specifically grant permission. The default setting in Firefox appears to be "always ask." I'm not sure how to change it except on a site by site basis. In Safari, I believe the default is to ask once a day, with options to ask one time only or to deny all requests. Chrome's settings are to allow, ask, or always deny, with ask appearing to be the default.

Microsoft's P2P setup apparently makes it vary easy for a user to download Windows once and install it on several computers. Without having tried it, I obviously can't confirm its ease. :) I'd still prefer to leave others out of the equation, though.

In comparison, when a user downloads OS X, the installer lands in the Applications folder. The installation process deletes the installer. If one prefers to keep it, it can be moved to any location outside of the Applications folder before running it. I have an installer laying around on my startup drive for emergency purposes. When I download a new copy of OS X, the installer I've stashed is updated rather than the new one landing in the Applications folder. To keep older installers, move them off of the startup drive. If there is no OS X installer on the startup drive, the latest one will once again land in the Applications Folder.

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Apple is not a telephony provider. :) On the other hand, Microsoft bought Skype and therefore they are a telephony provider. As for where they fit in, the NSA promised to make whoever could crack Skype very wealthy. The math is pretty easy. :D

I'm not sure if something has changed with Firefox relating to revealing your location. I think it used to be one of the questions asked upon first install. I have a feeling there are options when one is prompted, which give the choice of all or never. I must admit that I do not see it in the preferences sections. There is likely something in about:config but it should be more readily available than that.

A slight aside... I've been reading that non-genuine Windows installations can readily be upgraded to Windows 10, through the update process. I have not heard if there is a downside yet.

Installers that self delete are a candidate for copying first. :)

Briefly, P2P splits a file into tiny fragments. The fragments are individually tested upon arrival. (These could arrive from hundreds of sources.) The fragments are assembled on the end user's device. The only thing that can be questioned is the P2P software and that was not self-delivered. The BBC either are doing it or going to do it. It was discussed with Mavericks roll-out. Gaming platforms release their games and updates via it. It's a concept that just makes sense. Heck, even Linux distros are generally released as P2P but they also offer conventional downloads and optical media for a fee.

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I don't remember what Firefox's setup process is like. Maybe I'll give it a try if I think of it when I have a moment.

I believe Windows 10 will nag users periodically if their copy isn't genuine. Some previous versions also reduced functionality. It varied from version to version.

Back in the olden days, Apple used to put OS installation on the "honor system." The licensing terms said that it could be run on one computer at a time (five if you bought a family pack). If you installed it to an external drive (or several), you wouldn't be breaking the licensing terms because a computer can only be booted from one drive at a time. Nothing prevented users from doing whatever they pleased, though.

I couldn't tell you if the App Store versions (OS X 10.7 Lion and later) have any kind of limitations. Because I've never seen anything reported, they probably don't. Because the last three versions of OS X have been free (OS X 10.9 Mavericks and later), it would seem kind of pointless to limit how they're installed. App Store apps (or some of them at least) seem to let you install and run them on another machine but will ask you for the corresponding Apple ID if you try to update them.

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Paul Thurrott feels that Windows privacy issues aren't a big concern:

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns Are Overblown, But Perception Matters

Several commenters disagree, and a couple don't care about privacy. I still think that the bigger issue is the confusion with the privacy policy and settings scattered about.

This article addresses how to deal with the settings, although according to articles in a couple of the links provided in the lead, I don't think it's covering everything:

[ur=’s-the-difference-between-windows-10’s-express-or-custom-setup/l]What’s the Difference Between Windows 10’s Express or Custom Setup?[/url]

I'd feel a whole lot better if I were only sending my current location on an as needed basis rather than my location history. There's a big difference.

Here's what Apple says about location:

Apple gives you control over the collection and use of location data on all your devices. You have to make the choice to enable Location Services — it’s not on by default. And you’ll notice that your iOS device asks for your permission before giving any app access to your location information, including apps on your paired Apple Watch. You can change your mind at any time and opt out of Location Services entirely or just for individual apps or services.

Our customers want and expect their mobile devices to quickly and reliably help them with things like calculating the amount of time it takes them to get to work or anticipating traffic conditions. iOS makes this possible in a secure way. For example, once you’ve opted into Location Services, iOS can remember your Frequent Locations and use them to provide commute information in Notification Center or automatic routing in CarPlay. It’s important to note that Frequent Locations remain on your device and are not sent to Apple, or even backed up in iTunes or iCloud. The one exception is if you opt in to improve Maps for yourself and other users, in which case we will occasionally collect your Frequent Locations but only retain this data in a purely anonymous form. Frequent Locations are encrypted with keys protected by your passcode on your device, and you always have the option to turn this feature off. And you’ll notice that your iOS device asks for your permission before giving any app, even built-in Apple apps, access to your location information.

You can also instruct Find My iPhone to send your location to Apple when the battery is under 10% power. That makes your last known location available if the iOS device is lost. This is an optional setting rather than a default.

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Will Hinch (ebuyer) wrote:The most central concern is Microsoft’s devious plan to increase their access to your data. Amongst the privacy policy for Windows 10, Microsoft have cunningly entered the following paragraph:

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to…protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”

Essentially then, Microsoft have given themselves the right to access the content of your emails, folders and many other communication methods on your system. Attempts are made to throw you off the scent, claiming that any data would be accessed in the name of fraud protection or government requests. But when vague statements such as “good faith” are being made by a tech conglomerate with their hands on millions of people’s personal data, you’d be foolish to assume there is no ulterior motive.

Every day in life, I monitor stats. I did think many would be jumping on Windows 10 but the uptake has been very slow and I have even heard of reversions. OS Market Share

Stats speak here too. There has been a small move away from Windows towards OS X and Linux.

I think this is worse for Microsoft than it looks at a glance. If one considers that the market share of Windows 7 actually increased, I think people are voting their confidence in Microsoft with these stats and a large percentage of these will be for privacy concerns.

There is little need to mention Windows as a non-desktop OS because it is simply not popular at all.

One has to consider that Windows Users are generally not actively choosing Windows for an Operating System but rather found themselves tied to it for one reason or another. There may already be a degree of dis-ease before being asked to swallow even more intrusiveness. Software manufacturers need to be encouraged to write for Linux. Would everyone still want Windows if their favorite games ran on Linux and actually ran better on the same hardware? If one includes OS X with its *NIX base, then there already exists a 10% market share using *NIX.

The vast majority of people these days do not interact with the Operating System. Many will not even know what it is or why it is needed. They will however use a Desktop Environment. In the case of Windows, there is only one choice of Desktop Environment for the Operating System. Just as always, specs should be calculated backwards from the requirements. Windows is not a requirement in many cases but a choice.

Try to think about it another way... An Operating System is an Operating System is an Operating System. While not entirely true, the principle holds no matter what name or brand you give it. Because OSes have been around for such a long time now *gasp*, they are a whole lot alike and fairly well honed. Microsoft have been charging for being *the* Operating System and this business model no longer holds water. There are comparable free, secure and less intrusive systems out there, which are also very stable and mature. People happily use these on their phones and tablets.

Microsoft also wrote its own Office suite. They did not do anything different from anyone else. The only thing that was better was that integration worked both simply and well. They have tough competition these days from free and less intrusive software like OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Both will open MS documents, as well as save in their formats.

Nobody needs to pay Microsoft any more. Microsoft are looking at other ways to make money from you. Right now, a reasonable solution is simply to avoid Microsoft.

Posts: 478

You know what, I almost got it on my lappy and opted out when I realized that it was then after I clicked on it to add my name to their list to be in line to get hooked up that my lappy kept crashing like I had a system error and my lappy is perfectly fine even checked for viro's, nothing.

It was then when I opted out that my lappy stopped crashing. I did a lot of research to find out about that and learned I wasn't the only one and it had a lot to do with security issues. Therefore, in my honest opinion W10 sucks because of that, they're gonna have to do some major improvements before I buy into a W10 if not I guess I opt out of the web world altogether. ;)

Now, to deal with FF's issues or is it an issue and maybe a problem?!?! 8o

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Doesn't seem to be getting any better :\

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