Windows 10 Anniversary Update: The good, the bad and the 'meh' (with video)

The new version of Windows 10 is a solid, if not dramatic, upgrade. Cortana haters, though, won't be happy.

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Killing Wi-Fi Sense

People who are concerned about personal security will be pleased at something Microsoft has removed from Windows 10: A controversial aspect of its Wi-Fi Sense feature that was designed to automatically connect guests to Wi-Fi networks without their having to type in passwords. When Windows 10 was first released a year ago, people worried that it invaded their privacy by sharing all their Wi-Fi passwords with their Outlook and Skype contacts, and with their Facebook friends -- as well as all of their friends' friends.

If they looked at the way it actually worked, they would have seen it wasn't a big privacy invader because the passwords wouldn't be visible to anyone. In addition, users controlled whether to use the feature and would have to manually turn on sharing for each one of their Wi-Fi networks.

But Microsoft was stung by the criticism -- in a blog post, a company representative writes, "The cost of updating the code to keep this feature working combined with low usage and low demand made this not worth further investment." What Microsoft didn't say was that doing away with it would be good public relations for the company as well.

The feature hasn't been completely killed, though -- only the controversial part of it that has to do with you sharing your Wi-Fi networks with others. So in the Anniversary Update, the same blog explains, "Wi-Fi Sense, if enabled, will continue to get you connected to open Wi-Fi hotspots that it knows about through crowdsourcing." That means if you're near a publicly open Wi-Fi hotspot, you'll be automatically logged in.

Windows 10 wifi sense

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update eliminates the more controversial features in Wi-Fi Sense.

This feature is enabled by default. If you want to turn it off, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, then scrolling to the Wi-Fi Sense section. Underneath "Connect to suggested open hotspots," turn the setting to Off.

Windows 10 makes friends with Linux

The update has a gift for developers who use both Windows and Linux: a built-in Linux command line consisting of a GNU Bash shell. It's the real thing -- a full-blown Ubuntu command line created in partnership with Canonical. Bash is a tool for developers -- not a server platform for running websites or server infrastructure. So while most users won't care much about this, many developers will greet it with open arms.

The Linux command line isn't turned on by default -- and if you want to turn it on, you're going to have to do some work. To do it, go to Settings > Update & security > For developers, and choose Developer mode. You'll then have to wait for the "Developer mode package" to download (which took me less than a minute).

Once it's downloaded, you'll get a notification that you need to restart your PC. After it restarts, go to Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows features on or off. Check the box next to Windows Subsystem for Linux and restart your PC. Then type Bash into the search box next to the Start button and press Enter. You'll see a command line. Type Y and press Enter to continue with the installation, which downloads the Bash on Ubuntu app from the Windows Store.

Windows 10 linux bash

You can now run a Linux Bash shell inside Windows 10.

After it downloads and installs, you'll have to create a user account and password. At that point, you can run the Bash shell and the app will show up on the Windows 10 All Apps list.

Windows 10 goes to the dark side

In the Anniversary Edition, you can paint Windows black -- so to speak. The OS will now include a dark theme. But don't be surprised if that dark theme turns light again inside apps, because some third-party Windows apps control their own theme settings rather than relying on Windows to do it.

Windows 10 dark

Windows 10 now has a dark theme.

If you're in a dark mood, go to Settings > Personalization > Colors, scroll down to "Choose your app mode," and select Dark.

But wait -- there's more

You'll find other changes in Windows 10 as well, most of them minor:

  • Microsoft's fingerprint sensor technology (called Windows Hello) can now be used not just to log into Windows itself, but also in Windows apps and websites -- just as long as those apps and sites use the technology, and you have hardware that supports it.
  • There are new emojis.
  • You can control your power use better by deciding which apps should be allowed to run in the background; you can also let Windows decide based on how the operating system determines how each app will affect battery life. Just go to Settings > System > Battery > Battery usage by app and click any app. You can choose whether to always let it run in the background, never let it run in the background or let Windows decide.
  • The Calendar app now integrates with the Notification area. So if you click the day and time, the calendar pops up as a sidebar that lists appointments, notes and reminders. Click any other day in the sidebar to see appointments, notes and reminders for that day as well.

Bottom line

There's nothing dramatic or groundbreaking in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Cortana is moderately more useful, the Start Menu has gotten a few useful tweaks, the Action Center is marginally better and the Edge browser finally gets extensions (although there are so few of them, it doesn't make much of a difference).

If someone doesn't like Windows 10, nothing in the update will change that. As for people who already use Windows 10, many users may not notice much of a difference aside from the Start Menu tweaks -- and even then, it won't much change the way they use the operating system.

Still, it's a solid update. And anyway, who said a first anniversary is really much of a cause for celebration? After all, the traditional first-year anniversary gift is not silver, not gold and not diamonds. It's paper. So consider this update a thank-you note from Microsoft, one that you might not even notice.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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