Wayne Williams

My favorite tech items of 2016 [Wayne]

Happy new year thumb

2016 was a bad year in lots of ways -- loads of celebrity deaths, plus Brexit and Trump (depending on your point of view of course) -- but a good year for new tech.

Rather than just looking at what exciting new products made it on to the market in 2016, I’ve decided to take a look at the items that have become part of my digital life in the past 12 months.

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Behold the Windows 10 GSOD -- Green Screen of Death

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The other day I turned on my computer and was faced with the infamous Blue Screen of Death. This one was caused by a graphics error, and nothing too onerous, but I’ve had to troubleshoot numerous terrifying BSODs over the years.

The Blue Screen of Death is synonymous with big show-stopping problems, but Microsoft is currently toying with a different shade of terror -- green.

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Microsoft finally lets users pause updates in Windows 10

Pause

One of the features Microsoft introduced with Windows 10 was mandatory updates. The software giant was obviously hoping this would keep users safe, but it’s proven to be a divisive move.

Pro users can defer updates, but Home users don’t have this luxury. There are numerous third-party tools available that give users greater control, but the forthcoming Creators Update will allow users to easily pause updates as and when required.

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Download Windows 10 themes from the Windows Store

themes

If you want to download official themes for Microsoft’s operating system you can do so at the moment by going here, and choosing the theme you want from a selection of categories including Featured, Animals, Games, Movies, Places & Landscapes, and Panoramic. There are also 'Compatible with Windows 7' and 'Compatible with the new Windows' categories.

In Windows 10, you can also go to Settings > Personalization > Themes > Themes Settings, and click 'Get more themes online'. However, there’s now another way to get Windows 10 themes, and that’s from the Windows Store.

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Santa brought you an iPhone 7? Here's what to do first

iphone7

Despite planning to stick with my iPhone 6s for another year, I ended up upgrading to the iPhone 7, and I’m pleased that I did. If you were lucky enough to get an iPhone 7 for Christmas, or an iPhone 7 Plus for that matter, you’re no doubt going to be as happy with the latest Apple smartphone as I am.

Getting started is straightforward, as once the phone is turned on you’ll be walked through the set up process, how to configure the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and set up a PIN. Once you've set up the basics, it's time to explore what you can do with your new device.

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Santa brought you an Apple Watch (first or second gen)? Here's what to do first

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If you were lucky enough to receive an Apple Watch as a present this year, you’ll no doubt be keen to see what it offers, and what you can do with it.

To start you’ll need to pair it with an iPhone 5 or later, running the latest version of iOS. To do this, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your phone and make sure the feature is enabled.

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Santa brought you an Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD? Here's what to do first

Fire TV

The Grand Tour, The Man in the High Castle, Transparent… just three good reasons why you might have opted for Amazon’s powerful, yet diminutive TV box. Plus of course, it’s also the gateway to loads more TV, movies, apps and games.

If you have a 4K TV, it’s great source of UHD content (Amazon’s original shows are available in that format) -- although you may want to skip paying $25.99 to watch a scaled-up Groundhog Day! Once you’ve excitedly opened the gift of a new Amazon Fire TV, here’s what to do next.

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Microsoft admits its aggressive Windows 10 push was a low point for the company

Angry PC user

In its quest to get people to upgrade to Windows 10 while the new operating system was still free, Microsoft took a surprisingly aggressive approach, which got uglier, and uglier as the year went on.

The company’s dirty tricks included downloading Windows 10 files onto users computers without permission, making Windows 10 a "Recommend update", removing the "no thanks" button from the Get Windows 10 box, changing the behavior of the red corner x, and sneaking an advert for Windows 10 into a Windows 7 security patch. Now the company admits it did cross the line, but only at one point -- can you guess which?

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How to install Windows 10 Creators Update Build 14986 on Oracle VirtualBox

Virtualbox Win10CU

Microsoft has released ISO image files for Windows 10 Build 14986, giving anyone a chance to try out the forthcoming Creators Update.

While you can install it on a PC, it’s not wise to have it as your daily driver. One of the best ways of trying it out risk free, is to run it in a virtualized environment, using VirtualBox.

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Windows 10 Creators Update Build 14986 ISO images available now

Windows-10 key

If you’re thinking of joining the Windows 10 Insider program, or you just want to do a clean install with the very latest version of Windows 10, the good news is Microsoft has released an up-to-date ISO image.

The image, for Build 14986, is available to all, and you can download it now, although there is a catch.

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Raspberry Pi's Linux-based PIXEL desktop now available for PC and Mac

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If you own a Raspberry Pi, you’re probably familiar with PIXEL. The desktop environment is included in the Raspbian OS.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation describes PIXEL as the "GNU/Linux we would want to use" and understandably so. It offers a smart, clean interface, a decent selection of software, the Chromium web browser with plug-ins, and more -- and from today it’s available for PC and Mac.

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Get Wiley's 'Windows 10 Simplified' (worth $17) FREE for a limited time

windows 10 simplfied

Whether you’re new to Windows 10, know someone who might need a little help mastering the new OS, or just want to get more from it yourself, Windows 10 Simplified is a great read.

The book usually retails for $17, but you can download a PDF version for free now. The offer is only good until December 29, 2016, so act quickly.

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Fool Windows 10 into disabling automatic updates

Laughing at PC

Microsoft made Windows 10 updates mandatory in order to make sure all users are always on the latest version of the new OS, but if you’d rather choose if and when updates are installed -- perhaps to avoid falling foul of problem ones -- there are several options available to you.

We’ve previously looked at ways you can disable the update mechanism in Windows 10, including using the Windows 10 Updater Disabler, but Windows 10 Update Switch uses an interesting method to stop updates for as long as you’d like.

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Fix update errors in Windows 10 with this new tool from Microsoft

Repair

If you’re having problems installing updates in Windows 7 onwards, there’s a troubleshooting page you can try.

The guided walkthrough lets you fix problems in Windows 7, 8.1 or 10. Just choose your operating system, and follow the on-screen instructions. If you’re running Windows 10, you’ll be prompted to download a new Windows Update Troubleshooter.

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Facebook introduces Group Video Chat in Messenger

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Facebook has been adding all sorts of features to its chat app recently, including classic arcade games, and a new camera with art and 3D effects.

Today, the social networking giant introduces the ability to video chat in groups, which it describes as the most requested Messenger feature ever.

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