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Glazer: New Windows version is worth the test drive
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In the world of computing, there’s bad news and good news.

Windows XP is long gone, but there’s no reason you can’t use it if you stay off the Internet. You can go online, but go at your own risk.

Some people ask me if they can still use XP. Sure you can. It won’t cease to function; it’s just not safe anymore. There is no more protection from Microsoft, as security patches have been terminated. It’s like taking a car with bald tires on a long trip. You never know how far you’ll get.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that according to Microsoft, Windows 10 will be available in late summer, a bit earlier than the previous announcement of a fall release.

Tech and consumer previews are available right now as a free download and installation online. Keys are provided to activate the product. My laptop is set up for a dual-boot, letting me choose whether to go into Win 7 or Win 10 as it boots up.

Although I’m not a fan of Win 8, its successor so far appears to have some nice improvements.

For one, it marks the return of the Start menu that was lacking in Win 8. The system will let you rename or even remove the Win 8-style tiles native to the desktop. If you like, you could have it resemble your old friend Windows 7. However, it will be faster, smarter and run more efficiently than its predecessor.

This version will supposedly carry little or no bloatware, as in preinstalled programs you’ll probably never use. The operating system will also take up less room. Both of these reductions will allow for more usable storage space.

Among other improvements, Win 10 will incorporate handwriting recognition for pen use, a better photo app including RAW processing and network settings more easily accessed.

Internet Explorer will eventually be gone (Huzzah!) and in its place will be Spartan, an entirely new browser. It may not be there yet, but by the time of the final release, it will be.

One of the biggest enhancements will be Cortana, a voice-activated virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri and Google’s OK Google applications.

Cortana will show as a search box near the Start button. It will be integrated with Spartan and permit you to search the Internet and data on your computer.

Also, you will be introduced to new biometric sensors that will work in association with Windows Hello, a security feature giving you the option to securely log on to Win 10 with your face, eyes or finger. You can opt out and still use passwords should you so desire.

The two biggest surprises are unprecedented in that Microsoft is allowing free upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8 to the new version 10. It doesn’t stop there. If your BFF installed a pirated version of the operating system on your computer, you can still qualify. So even if you don’t have a legal version of the last two Windows, you can still upgrade it.

To try this new operating system, find your way to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-iso.

Know that if you chose to take Windows 10 for a test drive, it is a work in progress. It may have bugs and many features have yet to be added. I would highly recommend you not replace your existing OS with Win 10 just yet, but be safe and put it on a different partition on your computer’s hard drive. To be safer yet, install it on a separate computer.

Speaking of new operating systems, if you use an Android smartphone, you should be prepared for an update from Version 4 to Version 5 or from Kit Kat to Lollipop.

Depending on which carrier you have and what phone you use, it may or may not be a smooth transition. I put it off for as long as I could because I read of issues with it and my phone, the Galaxy S5. Eventually the update was forced upon me and the Galaxy I used to love, turned into my worst nightmare in less than an hour.

I eventually discovered how to get my phone back in working order again, but for a while, it overheated, drained the battery rapidly, spontaneously rebooted and lost Wi-Fi connections frequently. Consider yourselves forewarned.

Just as with any operating system upgrade, there are rough spots and improvements. My phone now is a bit faster and experiences less battery drain. It’s not a drastic upgrade, and the interface has changed slightly, but I now love my Android once again.

The jury is still out on Windows 10, but the verdict looks hopeful.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. 

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