Tip o’ the Week 431 – Hiding your name

clip_image002If you use your laptop on a train or in other public spaces, there’s always the concern that someone might be looking over your shoulder and reading what’s on your screen. With the GDPR bogeyman about to be unleashed, there’s never been more concern and focus on not leaking information.

clip_image004You could invest in a screen filter to stop snooping, but a simple step to make you immediately more comfortable, is to not show your own name – have you ever felt self-conscious that random people in the wild can see your name, and maybe even recognise you?

Paranoid Microsoftie Andrew Brook-Holmes went digging to see how to stop this behaviour, and thus inspired this tip.

To switch off the display of your name on the login clip_image006or lock screen, first go into the Local policy of your machine – the quickest way is to press WindowsKey+R then enter gpedit.msc, then expand out the local policy to Security Options as shown on the right.

In the right-hand pane, you’ll see a long list of policy items, many of which won’t be configured but could conceivably be; there are options to hide or show elements on the login screen, but in this case we’re going to try not showing the last named user at all.


Double-clock on the Interactive logon: Don’t display last signed-in, and you’ll have a simple Enable/Disable choice – in this case, we want to use a double negative – enable the fact that we’re not displaying. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of what it does, there’s another tab on the dialog showing exactly that.

Now if you lock your screen (WindowsKey+L), you’ll see tclip_image010hat it’s already in effect. It might be annoying depending on how you’ve got the machine set up, as you’ll probably need to enter your username as well as PIN/password etc every time.

If you use Windows Hello to sign in with your face, then you won’t need to do anything except present your boat race to the camera. If you decide you’d rather go back to normal for easier sign-in, just reverse the process you’ve done above.

clip_image012If you can’t find Local Computer Policy (as home edition doesn’t have that capability, for example), you may need to use the Registry instead…

Press WindowsKey+R – enter regedit – navigate to…


…and set the value of dontdisplaylastusername to 1. Log out to apply the change.

Tip o’ the Week 430 – developers, developers, developers

clip_image001This week has seen the Microsoft developer conference, called //build/ in its current guise, take place in “Cloud City”, Seattle (not so-called because it rains all the time – in fact, it rains less than in Miami. Yeah, right). Every major tech company has a developer conference, usually a sold-out nerdfest where the (mostly) faithful gather to hear what’s coming down the line, so they know what to go and build themselves.

Apple has its WWDC in California every year (for a long time, in San Francisco), and at its peak was a quasi-religious experience for the faithful. Other similar keynotes sometimes caused deep soul searching and gnashing of teeth.

The Microsoft one used to be the PDC, until the upcoming launch of Windows 8 meant it was time to try to win the hearts & minds of app developers, so //build/ became rooted in California in the hope that the groovy kids would build their apps on Windows and Windows Phone. Now that ship has largely sailed, it’s gone back up to the Pacific North West, with the focus more on other areas.

clip_image003Moving on from the device-and-app-centric view that prevailed a few years back (whilst announcing a new way of bridging the user experience between multiple platforms of devices), Build has embraced the cloud & intelligent edge vision which cleverly repositions a lot of enabling technologies behind services like Cortana (speech recognition, cognitive/natural language understanding etc) and vision-based products such as Kinect, HoloLens and the mixed reality investments in Windows. AI took centre stage; for a summary of the main event, see here.

clip_image005The cloud platform in Azure can take data from devices on the edge and process it on their behalf, or using smarter devices, do some of the processing locally, perhaps using machine learning models that have been trained in the cloud but executed at the edge.

With Azure Sphere, there’s a way for developers to build secure and highly functional ways to process data on-board and communicate with devices, so they can concentrate more on what their apps do, and on the data, less on managing the “things” which generate it.

For all of the breakouts at Build and the keynotes on-demand, see here.

Back in the non-cloud city, Google has adopted a similar developer ra-ra method, with its Google I/O conference also taking place in and around San Francisco, also (like WWDC and Build) formerly at Moscone. It happened this past week, too.

Like everyone else, some major announcements and some knock-em dead demos are reserved for the attendees to get buzzed on, generating plenty of external coverage and crafting an image around how innovative and forward thinking the company is.

Google Duplex, shown this week to gasps from the crowd, looks like a great way of avoiding dealing with ordinary people any more, a point picked up by one writer who called it “selfish”.

Does a reliance on barking orders at robot assistants and the increasing sophistication of AI in bots and so on, mean the beginning of the end for politeness and to the service industry? A topic for further consideration, surely.

Tip o’ the Week 429 – Windows 10 April 2018 Update

clip_image001Somewhat predictably, this week’s tip concerns the slightly-delayed but at least now officially-named, Windows 10 April 2018 Update. April gave way to May before the update began rolling out widely: if you haven’t seen it show up in Windows Update, check here.

clip_image003As an alternative, get the Media Creation Tool and use it to download an appropriate ISO disc image; useful if you fancy doing a clean install of Windows and all it contains, by wiping your current PC and starting from scratch.
Proceed down this road with caution, however – back away if you’re not sure.

Windows watchers have been talking about this April update for months, as there are many notable updates within, some covered only recently in ToW (425 and 428).

As well as Timeline, the Nearby Sharing clip_image005clip_image007feature is pretty cool – use it to send a link from within Edge browser by clicking the Share icon on the toolbar, and as long as your nearby PCs have Nearby Sharing enabled within Settings. To check, press WindowsKey and type nearby then click on Change shared experience settings.

You can also right-click on files in Windows Explorer to Share them the same way, and it’s likely to appear in the Share experience of other apps too.


The next-to-useless Windows 10 option previously known as Quiet Hours (as per ToW 414), has been given a revamp and a rename, now known as Focus Assist.

The intent is not only to silence your machine at times when you don’t need to know stuff (who’s ever been woken at 6am to be reminded that it’s some random LinkedIn person’s birthday, or that there’s an all-day event in your calendar?), but also to control the blizzard of “toast” notifications that modern apps may otherwise throw at you.

Note – traditional apps, like Outlook, can still throw up notifications, but if your machine is in a Focus assist modeclip_image011, at least the notifications can be silenced. To check the current status, or to switch on Priority only or Alarms only manually, look in the Action Center clip_image013 on the taskbar, or press WindowsKey+A to show.

For a full breakdown of everything else that’s new in the April update, see here.

Tip o’ the Week 428 – Spring, April or the Edge of Summer

clip_image002The intent was to release the latest update (“Redstone 4” or “RS4”) to Windows 10 during early April, though a late “blocking bug” delayed the release. The name of the update was late to be officially confirmed, too – it was rumoured to be “Spring Creators Update” (since the Fall Creators Update happened last year, though the “Creators Update” appeared around a year ago, in April 2017)… but was also thought to be simply, “Windows 10 April Update”. The Reg forecast a wait of weeks to be sure.

clip_image004There are lots of small improvements in the update, as well as some biggies like Timeline (which is showing up in other apps, too – like Photos, as seen to the left), and the Edge browser is getting a slug of new functionality – take a sneak peek at some of the Edge goodness, here.

Developers also got a new preview of Edge DevTools, which opens the door to such excitement as remote debugging of another Edge instance. If you’re a hoopy frood, check it out here.

clip_image006It seems that Edge, even though it’s the default browser in Windows 10, doesn’t appear to be everyone’s favourite, with many users installing Chrome as one of their first tasks on a new machine. Both browsers and the respective web services from their creators seem insistent on nagging their end users to switch…


Still, there are times when the two cooperate behind the scenes. The Edge for Android app, for example, uses the rendering engine from the Chromium project, so is effectively running the same browser capabilities in a different shell which takes care of synchronising your favourites, passwords etc, between the Edge browser on your PC(s) and the one on your phone. Edge for iOS uses the native WebKit engine to achieve the same thing.

There are updates on the way for the mobile versions of Edge, supporting Timeline too – so you could resume activities from your desktop on your phone and vice versa.

Microsoft also recently launched a Defender Extension for Chrome, to provide similar protection to defectors that Edge users get natively from the SmartScreen filter technology (NSS Labs tested Edge, Chrome & Firefox, concluding that Edge blocks more bad stuff than either of the others). Even some surprised Chrome users recommend it.

Tip o’ the Week 427 – OneNote roadmap update

clip_image002As has been covered many times previously on ToW, the OneNote app has a lot of fans who love the product and use a lot of its features, especially when it’s used in the Classroom. Defectors to other platforms sometimes bemoan the lack of OneNote (or a decent alternative) as a hurdle in using their chosen environment.

Talking about OneNote can be confusing, though, as there are the two PC versions – OneNote 2016, the Win32 app that’s evolved ever since the first version shipped as part of Office 2003, and the shiny new codebase that is OneNote for Windows 10, the Store app which also shares a lot of its UX with the Mac, mobile and web versions. Differences are explained here.

Major users of OneNote may have noticed that over the last couple of years, the traditional Windows app hasn’t received a whole lot of new functionality, but the Store version has had regular updates with extra features… though it is a much simpler app anyway, so there’s more to improve. The Metro Store version is missing quite a lot of the capability of the full-fat version, though the gap is closing fast.

Recently, the OneNote team announced that there will be no further development of the traditional OneNote 2016 application, and that it won’t be installed by default in the next iteration of Office (though it will still be available as an option, in case you can’t live without it).

New features are planned for the Store version – like support for tags, and what looks to clip_image004be a tweak to the search experience, which will provide additional search refinements. Whether it’s as good as the somewhat obscure but quite powerful Search capability in the 2016 app remains to be seen.

To get the latest version of the OneNote app, first check it’s up to date, or join the Office Insiders program. Windows Insiders clip_image006also get early access to OneNote versions, and there’s an Experimental Features option (in the ellipsis···” Settings & More menu, Options).

Paul Thurrott – an unashamed fan of the OneNote for Windows 10 app, preferring it to its elder sibling – also reported on the news. Paul points out that the UWP version has better support for ink, that syncing is faster, performance is better etc. Tech Republic has some further commentary too.

To keep up with other news on OneNote, you could do well to follow William Devereux from the OneNote team on Twitter, as recommended by Windows Central’s “50 influencers” article.