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Home of my tech rants, free programs, and a story or two…

Windows 10 Telemetry

I know that many of you may have read stuff about Windows 10’s telemetry and that Microsoft is using it to spy on their users. Every little thing that you do on your Windows machine is being tracked, collected, and sent to Microsoft. Every keystroke, every mouse movement, every word you say to Cortana is being sent to Microsoft for God knows what reason. And for all we know, Microsoft may be sending this information to government agencies around the world in their misguided attempts to protect us from “terrorism”.

We live in a world in which we can’t trust our governments to not be snooping on everything we do from sending an email or SMS message to talking on the phone. With that being said, Yahoo! was found snooping on everyone’s email and sending it straight to the US government’s spying agencies. How do we know that Microsoft isn’t doing the same thing and sending all of this telemetry that they’re collecting with Windows 10 straight to the US government? That’s right, we don’t.

I’m not saying that Microsoft is doing all of this but I’m also not saying that Microsoft isn’t doing all of this. Why? Because we don’t know. We don’t know what is being sent to Microsoft. Really! We don’t. The data is encrypted and we don’t know how to decrypt it to be able to find out what’s actually contained in said telemetry. So with that being said… call me a tin foil hat wearing nut job if you wish, because we don’t know we have to assume something is up. We have to assume that Microsoft is up to no good and that they’re spying on all of us.

The fact that you can’t turn the telemetry off in consumer versions of Windows 10 is even more worrisome. There’s no switch in Windows 10 that simply turns it all off. All we can do is either set the telemetry to Basic, Enhanced, or Full; there’s no “Off” switch.

A lot of the outrage regarding Windows 10 comes from the fact that we can’t turn the telemetry off, they’ve removed the choice to be able to do so. That right there folks is the major reason why myself and others like me have been so critical of Microsoft as of late. We can’t turn the telemetry off! Now had Microsoft given us the choice to be able to turn it off (if we so choose to do so) there wouldn’t be nearly the amount of hatred being flung Microsoft’s way concerning Windows 10. But again, there’s no “off switch”.

And for those people who are still running an earlier version of Windows such as Windows 7 to avoid this kind of telemetry collection, you aren’t safe from the telemetry either. Microsoft has been updating the telemetry components in Windows 7 and 8.1 to collect similar amounts of telemetry. And for those people who think that they’ll just avoid certain updates, you’re not safe either since Microsoft will be pushing cumulative updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 users just like Windows 10 receives. How do we know that Microsoft won’t slip additional telemetry updates into the cumulative updates for Windows 7 and 8.1? That’s right, we won’t know.

Microsoft… give us the choice, that’s all we ask for. If we don’t want our data going to you, that’s our business, that’s our choice. But in Windows 10 we don’t have that choice and that’s where it all begins… the removal of a choice. If Microsoft wants to rebuild their user’s trust and gain back some of the good will that they’ve shred over the last two years, they need to do the following three things. First and foremost, give the option to the users to be able to turn off the telemetry and not just make it available as a Registry hack; no, they need to release an easy to use tool to disable it. And second, come clean on what exactly is being collected and whether or not they’re sending this data to the governments of the world.

Agile programming and the stupidity of the Windows Insider Preview Program

About a year ago Microsoft laid off much of their internal quality assurance team (article) and with the advent of Windows 10 we can see how that decision has affected the quality of Windows 10. I’ll give you a hint… it’s suffered badly, quite badly.

I bet you’re asking what Microsoft replaced the QA team with. The answer is… The Windows Insider Preview Program. Yeah, that thing.

Outsourcing your quality assurance to outside your company is a recipe for disaster. What do you think the The Windows Insider Preview Program is? That’s right, the outsourcing of quality assurance onto the backs of amateurs. Do you see how this could cause things to blow up and go wrong?

Let’s explain some things here. To do proper software testing you need a team that’s willing to run a beta version of the software full time and not only that but a team made up of intelligent people who are capable of reporting bugs in a concise and detailed manner. They also need to understand that things aren’t going to work right all the time and that things may suddenly blow up in their faces at any moment taking their data with it. Guess what? That’s not The Windows Insider Preview Program. If you look at some of the complaints on The Windows Insider Preview Program they read like some whiny sixteen year old kid wrote them, not the kind of concise and detailed reports that developers need to fix software bugs. “It doesn’t work” or “It crashes” is not helpful but that’s the kind of things that you’ll often read as comments and reports in The Windows Insider Preview Program. Are you starting to see why The Windows Insider Preview Program was destined for failure? Yeah…

As for the bugs that made their way into the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft claims that the Anniversary Update was the most highly tested version of Windows to date which is a flat-out lie. Nobody in their right mind runs those preview builds as a full time OS (unless you’re a masochist and you like punching yourself in the gut). So no wonder why so many bugs got through. And let’s not forget that to install an upgrade from one Insider Preview Program build to the next involves a process that’s very similar to installing a whole new operating system. Again, nobody in their right mind would run an Insider Preview Program build as a full time OS, even at home. Only a masochist would agree to running one of these builds as a full time OS.

A couple of months ago people were complaining on the Insider Preview Program that Microsoft was releasing too many builds back-to-back and these were people who were just testing this in lab conditions or people like me who were testing this stuff in virtual machines. Now imagine if someone was actually running these builds as a full-time OS? They would be pulling their hair out.

And as I said above, you need the kind of people who are willing to test something full time and don’t care if something goes horribly wrong. You have to have a dedicated team to do this kind of testing, you can’t expect normal people to be testing this stuff. You need people who are willing (and paid) to run test builds of an OS that don’t care if their system is thrown into complete chaos and thus forced to be reinstalled clean.

The Windows Insider Preview Program (and others like it) is not and will never be the answer to proper software testing. Software companies still need internal testing teams to do the hard work before releasing beta versions. What passes as Insider Preview Program Builds these days smell more like very early beta versions, I’d even go so far as to say they’re alpha versions. Unfortunately Microsoft fired much of their internal testing teams to be replaced by the developers themselves and that’s another recipe for disaster. Developers make the worst testers just like medical professionals make the worst patients. They know how things are supposed to work and thus they can’t test something adequately because they’re testing it from the perspective of someone who knows how it should work and aren’t testing for those edge-cases. You need people who are willing to bang on something and intentionally break it. And sometimes, breaking something is an art. I know people who can break stuff easily while I sit back and scratch my head wondering just what the hell they did.

Touch, I don’t want touch!

Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch… I don’t want touch! Touch belongs on a smartphone, not a computer! A computer is operated with a keyboard and mouse! Long live the desktop!

Hey Microsoft… you messed up!

Not only did the Windows 10 Anniversary Update manage to destroy webcam functionality for users across the world but you gone ahead and messed up again and broke Powershell too. Seriously Microsoft, what the heck is wrong with you? Didn’t you test this kind of stuff before you released it? Oh wait I forgot… you fired your QA team and replaced it with the Insider Preview program.

The Insider Preview program is a nice thing but there’s a problem… YOU DON’T LISTEN TO THEM! We were filing bugs for months before the release of the Anniversary Update but did you listen? Nope. In one ear and out the other. We were telling you that webcams were broken, but did you listen? Of course not! The whole Insider Preview program is nothing but a farce, a great big farce!

And of course because of Windows 10’s mandatory updates if something comes along and breaks things again, God forbid sending computers around the world into Blue Screen hell, we as users can’t escape from it because even if we managed to recover our systems from the botched update that same botched update will be downloaded and installed sending our machines once again into Blue Screen hell. Oh joy of joys! NOT!

To quote Paul Thurrot…

If Microsoft wants us to accept automatic updates without question, it needs to ship high-quality updates that do not break things. And so far, it is not living up to its end of this contract. You can complain all you want about Android or iPhone, but this is the type of thing that will really kill Windows. And the lack of trust that these kinds of mistakes engenders is irreversible.

If you ask me, Microsoft has managed to burn every shred of trust and goodwill that it had with their users. First the spying on everything we do on our Windows 10 systems and now this. If there was any other alternative platform where I could play my games I would jump ship from Microsoft so fast they would be able to hear the sonic boom all the way to Redmond.

Hey Tim Cook and Apple… there’s a whole untapped portion of the market begging to be let out of the Microsoft jail!